Author and Curator: Chloe Thomas, Manager, Scientific Sessions and Education at Heart Rhythm Society
One step further towards an HIV vaccine
Statistics show that approximately 34 million people are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Within the last years, important steps have been taken in finding treatments and medications against HIV. The study introduced in this article is a helpful contribution to the development of an HIV vaccine.
Researchers working in the California Institute of Technology have focused more closely on the binding mechanism of the virus to the human cell. Leading a study which was published in the Science Magazine in 2011, they departed from the fact that a passive transfer of HIV neutralizing antibodies can prevent an infection and might therefore even be valuable for the creation of an HIV vaccine. As the number of naturally occurring antibodies is relatively low, the researchers intended to discover whether these antibodies belong to a larger group of molecules which might turn out useful studies of the infection. By cloning more than 500 HIV antibodies taken from four different infected individuals, they discovered that all of them produced a large number of potent HIV antibodies which mimic the binding to CD4. By isolating the potent anti-HIV antibodies of infected people, the scientists have begun to develop ways in order to neutralize subtypes of the infection. The researchers have found a strong version of an anti-HIV antibody, which is named NIH45-46. These antibodies that target the binding site of the host receptor (namely CD4) interact with the protein gp120. This protein sits on the viruses and helps the virus enter the cell, and thus mainly contributes to the infection process. The interaction between antibody and the protein leads to neutralizing the virus and thus may avoid infection. Knowing this, the scientists were able to develop an even stronger type, named NIH45-46G54W, which employs the described mechanism more effectively. The next step the researchers are advocating is a clinical testing period for the newly-created effective antibody. Through that, they hope to gain further information on understanding the neutralization of the virus which might even help in developing a vaccine against HIV.
Scientific research: a long process
Despite the success of the study, it is important to note that an analysis in the laboratories and a clinical testing phase has to be conducted over a long period of time in order to bring about representative results. Methods have to be considered, antibodies suppliers like here have to be contacted, and data have to be evaluated. For that reason, the development of an HIV vaccine cannot happen overnight, but should be furthered patiently.