Early HIV Vaccine Studies in Animal Models Show Promise

Scientists have made progress in prompting powerful antibodies against HIV in animal-based research, raising hope for the future of human vaccine development. Three studies have been published simultaneously—two in the journal Science and one in the journal Cell—on research of so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies (BNAs) against HIV.

In one study published in Science, researchers designed a complex of molecules that was able to elicit BNAs in rabbits and monkeys infected with a difficult-to-neutralize strain of HIV. The molecular complex the scientists created evokes a part of HIV that binds to immune cells. Historically, it has been difficult to create such a facsimile of this portion of the virus.

In the study published in Cell, researchers showed that an HIV vaccine would likely need to expose the immune system to one variety of protein in order to prompt the body to develop a potential BNA against the virus; and then, later on, the vaccine would need to introduce a different protein to help the immune system develop a more mature form of that antibody.

In the other study published in Science, researchers gave an engineered protein to mice that prompted B immune cells to produce antibodies that are precursors to the so-called VRC01 antibody, which has been found to neutralize many strains of HIV.

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