TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018

Scientists, grantees take steps towards HIV vaccine

For the first time, scientists have discovered how the HIV virus and a strong antibody respond and co-evolve in a human body.

The findings, coming from vaccine research with an HIV-infected individual, could help researchers identify which proteins to use in test vaccines to create antibodies that prevent HIV infection.

A previous study of antibody genetics laid the groundwork for the present study, as scientists were able to determine the step-by-step development of a list of widely-neutralizing antibodies. This new study has shined light on information the first study did not, in identifying which specific antibodies and virus mutations drive the progression of the HIV disease.

This study used information from a male volunteer from Africa four weeks after he had confirmed contraction of the HIV virus. Scientists took blood samples from the participant weekly, enabling scientists to study the progression of the virus in the body over the course of two and a half years. This information revealed to researchers the "founder" virus that neutralizes the body's autoimmune defense against HIV, along with the cell from which that antibody developed.

Researchers are now in the process of creating a vaccine that uses a harmless copy of the virus to generate HIV antibodies. The vaccine will first be tested with uninfected animals and then with uninfected people.

The study was headed by Duke University's Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology-Immunogen Discovery. The CHAV-ID collaborated with other parties, including scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and seven other organizations.