New artificial HIV protein could help elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies

HIV vaccine (Gross L, PLoS Biology)

Researchers have developed a new chemically synthesized protein that could elicit the broadly neutralizing antibodies needed for an effective HIV-1 vaccine. The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It is thought that the induction broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs), rather than strain-specific neutralizing antibodies, is crucial for the design of an HIV-1 vaccine. About 20% of HIV-1-infected individuals exhibit bNAbs in their plasma after several years of infection.

Teams at Duke University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have created a synthetic glycopeptide that mimics vulnerable parts of the HIV outer coat and binds readily to broadly neutralizing antibodies. The artificial protein hence helps foster the production of broadly neutralizing antibodies, allowing them to develop without being crowded out by less effective antibodies. The glycopeptide also binds well to the receptors on naïve B cells of the neutralizing antibodies.

“It’s by presenting the correct target for a neutralizing antibody, yet masking the dominant undesired target, that a vaccine can provide a fair chance for neutralizing antibodies to develop,” said lead author S. Munir Alam, Ph.D., professor of medicine and pathology at Duke. “As in the case of our designed glycopeptide, if we start with a vaccine, to which not only the broadly neutralizing antibodies bind well, but also the receptors on naïve B cells, we hope to optimize the chance that the induced antibodies will go down the right path.”

Read the press release >

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