THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

TSRI scientists develop new strategy for HIV vaccine

Researchers with the La Jolla, California-based The Scripps Research Institute recently developed a strategy for inducing a key part of an effective HIV immune response which could be replicable on a larger scale.

The researchers traced the evolution of HIV-recognizing antibodies from the blood of rare individuals whose immune systems can naturally target and neutralize the virus. The team may have discovered a way to replicate such an immune response in all patients. The research team is scheduled to give a talk on the project this week at the American Crystallographic Association meeting in Hawaii.

Using crystal structures that show how the virus interacts with components of the immune system, the TSRI scientists reverse engineered molecules that specifically activate the precursors of antibodies against the virus. Such molecules could be used in a future vaccine against HIV.

"What we tried to do was to learn how those (effective) antibodies developed over the course of natural infection and attempt to guide the immune response in the direction of what we know works in certain HIV-infected individuals," Jean-Philippe Julien, a structural biologist on the project, said.

Julien said that while the work itself might not be the final answer in developing an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine, it does serve as a step in the right direction. He said an HIV/AIDS vaccine would likely combine multiple biological components to provide the broadest possible protection against the virus.

After achieving successful immune reactions in a test tube, the team is currently testing the new method in animals. If successful, further studies would see if the candidate molecule protected animals and humans against infection.