San Diego scientists, along with other researchers, recently published two scientific articles that say preventing or curing HIV is complex but not impossible.
In one article, there is a perspective on developing robust HIV antibodies, which would be a major step forward in the prevention and treatment of HIV. The “broadly-neutralizing antibodies mean a whole new category of HIV therapy, which can be offered as a prevention of treatment of the infection and can potentially lead to the development of other vaccines.
These antibodies deactivate a host of HIV strains that some people with HIV produce but takes years to produce. In this time, the virus has established itself.
According to the research, it’s not possible to stimulation antibody protection in a single step. Researchers have been working to develop a multi-stage vaccine using different immunizations. Volunteers have come up with the first phase, but are preparing subsequent phases.
At the same time, the antibodies currently in clinical testing to learn if they can control the infection, if not just kill some of the cells. The results from these tests are expected to be released next year.
In the second article, researchers detailed the vaccine strategy used to prepare the immune system to reject HIV. Some of this strategy includes stimulating the immune system to create rare B cells, which are ancestors of those broadly-neutralizing HIV antibodies. The cells then mutate the genome due to the antigen exposure, which causes a reaction in the immune system. These mutated genes become specialized until cells are produced to create antibodies that attack the vulnerable targets.
The block is the result of the special B cells, which means a vaccine must cause a proliferation of these precursor cells and then cause the descendants of those cells to create broadly neutralizing antibodies.
Some antibodies will be able to do this much easier than others, which means coming up with a technique to check the effectiveness. This would mean that a vaccine design could end up choosing the best antigens to help the immune system to produce the antibodies that would protect the body from HIV or treat those who are currently infected.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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