MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

NIH scientists develop tool to identify HIV antibodies

A team of scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health recently developed a new tool to identify powerful HIV antibodies that could prevent infection by the majority of HIV strains found worldwide.

The NIH announced on Thursday the creation of the tool, which identifies broadly neutralizing antibodies and could yield clues for the design of HIV vaccines. Some HIV-infected individuals develop bNAbs in their blood stream, which attack the HIV virus and demonstrate powerful neutralization activity. Until the scientists developed the tool, there was no efficient way to generate specific information about the HIV bNAbs present in the bloodstream or what parts of the virus they targeted. Finding where and how the HIV bNAbs bind to the virus required large quantities of sample blood and multiple complicated techniques.

The new tool, which is called neutralization fingerprinting, is a mathematical algorithm that uses the large body of data on HIV bNAbs to determine precisely which bNAbs are present in a blood sample through analyzing the neutralized HIV strains there. The neutralization fingerprint of an HIV antibody is a measurement of which virus strains it can block and how intensely it can block the strains. Antibodies targeting the same part of the virus tend to leave similar fingerprints.

Neutralization fingerprinting can be done with less sample blood and at a much faster rate than previous analytic methods. The researchers said the new approach could also be used to study human responses to other pathogens, like hepatitis C and influenza.

The study was recently published in Science.

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