March 06, 2011

Antibodies to Combat AIDS?

Discover carried this article on New HIV Hope? Researchers Find Natural Antibodies That Thwart the Virus at THIS LINK.


You can’t defeat what you can’t identify. That’s part of the human body’s problem with HIV–a virus that mutates constantly. Most antibodies can identify, latch onto, and neutralize only certain variants of the virus, or none at all. But two new studies published in Science yesterday point to two antibodies that almost always hits their targets--neutralizing some 90 percent of the most common HIV strains.

Scientists hope to eventually use their knowledge of these antibodies to develop a vaccine, but this is not an easy task.

“The path forward isn’t as clear as we’d like it to be, but we are turning a corner, I think,” says David Montefiori, a viral immunologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., who was not involved in the research. [Science News]

But first, how did they find these antibodies?

Step 1: Learning from a Survivor

Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases looked at the blood of a 60-year-old African American man who had survived with HIV for 20 years.

The HIV antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally…. Donor 45′s antibodies didn’t protect him from contracting HIV. That is likely because the virus had already taken hold before his body produced the antibodies. He is still alive, and when his blood was drawn, he had been living with HIV for 20 years. [Wall Street Journal]