Not only have scientists identified a new site on HIV’s surface for a potential vaccine to target, but they have also discovered a powerful antibody that goes after that site and have figured out how the antibody prevents infection. Publishing their findings in the journal Science, researchers studied the blood of an HIV-positive individual to examine how its components were able to prevent the virus from infecting cells.
The researchers discovered that the components of this individual’s blood were good at neutralizing the virus. But they did not find that any broadly neutralizing antibodies had targeted the typical sites on the virus where BNAs have been found to attach.
They identified a portion of HIV known as the fusion peptide, a thread of eight amino acids (which are proteins) that the virus uses to attach to a cell in order to infect it. The fusion peptide’s structure is much simpler than other sites on the virus that scientists have targeted with vaccines.
The scientists also isolated a BNA in this person’s blood, which they named VRC34.01, that bound to the fusion peptide and to a sugar molecule. After crystalizing the antibody as it was connected to HIV, they discovered that it prevents infection of a cell by binding to a key molecule on the cell’s surface.
Currently, the researchers are developing a vaccine that would prompt the development of antibodies similar to VRC34.01.
To read the study abstract, click here.
To read a press release about the study, click here.
To read the NIH statement about Vaccine Awareness Day, May 18, click here.