By investigating an African patient’s HIV infection, researchers have traced the development of an antibody that is effective at neutralizing many strains of HIV, according to a study published today (April 3) in Nature. The researchers—who identified the original HIV variant as well as the broadly neutralizing antibody, and pieced together their evolution over the course of infection—hope that a vaccine mimicking this process could encourage the development of such effective HIV-fighting antibodies.
The new research provides “really in-depth information on how a particular type of broadly neutralizing antibody emerges over the course of a natural HIV infection,” said Leonidas Stamatatos, an immunologist at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute who did not participate in the study.
Broadly neutralizing antibodies—able to block many strains of HIV from binding target cells—are notoriously rare: only about 20 percent of HIV-positive people ever generate such antibodies. One of the most attractive neutralizing targets is the HIV envelope protein (Env) that binds T cells, which is present on every variant of HIV. But Env is covered in sugar molecules that often mimic host structures, making it hard for the immune system to distinguish virus from self. In order to avoid an adverse autoimmune reaction, the body produces few B cells whose antibodies can recognize these common structures. One approach to developing an effective HIV vaccine is to stimulate these rare B cells, but because Env’s sequence can vary widely between HIV strains, researchers didn’t know much about the right Env variant for the job.
In order to find an Env that could stimulate an antibody with broadly neutralizing potential, Barton Haynes at Duke University and researchers at the Center for HIV-AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) set up eight acute infection clinics in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and one in North Carolina, where they could watch antibody and virus develop within weeks of infection.
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Dance of Development
I enjoyed the fruit fly embryonic development video from this post so much, I decided to animate it. Grow, little alien … grow like the wind!!!
An amazing photo of a duck entering the world. Lona became the latest new-born to successfully hatch thanks to the care and attention of resident volunteers at Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary, Co. Kerry, Ireland.
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New Medical Program, eliminating some pre-med requirements and the MCAT. Not an option for me, thought I would share for those who maybe interested.