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Scientists have discovered three previously unknown human antibodies that neutralize HIV, two of which target a broad range of HIV strains. The findings, reported online July 8 in two Science papers, come less than a year after another team of researchers discovered two other antibodies that bind to and neutralize HIV.
The discoveries may jump-start AIDS vaccine research. “The path forward isn’t as clear as we’d like it to be, but we are turning a corner, I think,” says David Montefiori, a viral immunologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., who was not involved in the research.
Nearly everyone infected with HIV makes some antibodies to it. But while HIV antibodies have been detected since the mid-1990s, none has had the properties to serve as a cornerstone around which to build a vaccine.
The newer antibodies might be made of tougher stuff. One in particular, called VRC01, displays potency and broad coverage across HIV strains, says Peter Kwong, a structural biologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., who coauthored both new reports.
In the new studies, Kwong and his colleagues collected antibodies from the blood of HIV-infected people around the globe. They then tested these antibodies against nearly 200 strains of HIV in the lab to determine how many strains were susceptible to each antibody and how much antibody was needed to neutralize the virus.
VRC01 and its sister antibody VRC02 neutralize 91 percent of HIV strains, the team reports. A third antibody, VRC03, neutralized 57 percent. By comparison, an antibody discovered in the 1990s neutralized only about 40 percent of known HIV strains, and the PG9 and PG16 antibodies unveiled last year neutralized 79 percent and 73 percent of strains.
The findings over the past year “establish a proof of the principle that it’s possible for the body to generate these kinds of antibodies,” Montefiori says. “We haven’t seen anything like what these antibodies can do — not even close.”
Scientists will do well to design an HIV vaccine that elicits the immune system to produce a combination of antibodies, to get an additive effect, Montefiori says.
Original Article by Nathan Seppa, USNEWS.COMClick here for reuse options!