In their battle against AIDS, scientists have come up with a new strategy for the development of an antibody-based HIV vaccine, say studies.
According to Dr. John R. Mascola, the Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recent studies have worked towards creating a vaccine that induces antibodies that prevent HIV infection or disease.
The studies have shown that, contrary to widespread belief, it is not uncommon for people infected with HIV to naturally make antibodies that can neutralize a variety of HIV strains.
The antibodies do not protect people from the virus because they arise years after HIV infection is established.
However, if a vaccine could prime the body to make these broadly neutralizing antibodies before exposure to HIV, it could be possible to prevent infection or hold the virus at bay until a large number of immune cells accumulate to control viral replication.
Thus, based on these findings, the researchers have recommended a research strategy that uses naturally occurring, broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies for the ultimate design of an antibody-based HIV vaccine.
One of the biggest aspects of this strategy is to obtain new broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV to expand the pool available for scientists to study.
The researchers need to identify regions on the surface of HIV that are vulnerable to broadly neutralizing antibodies, and determine the atomic-level crystal structure of those regions.
Besides, they aim to understand how broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV evolve and persist.
The scientists will also clarify the structural differences between anti-HIV antibodies that do and do not have neutralizing properties.
They would determine what quantity of broadly neutralizing antibodies an HIV vaccine must elicit to be effective.
With the new strategy, the researchers would aim to learn how anti-HIV neutralizing antibodies and HIV surface proteins evolve in response to one another in people who eventually produce a powerful neutralizing antibody response to the virus.
Their findings are expected to clarify how HIV surface proteins are presented to the immune cells that produce broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV.
Besides, they would determine what immune system conditions promote the production of broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies.