Arising hope for developing an effective AIDS vaccine soon, a team of researchers has for the first time reported elicitation of powerful, HIV-blocking antibodies in cows in a matter of weeks. This process normally takes years in humans. The study was published in the prestigious journal Nature.
So far, the experiments have been unsuccessful
One approach to a preventive HIV vaccine involves trying to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies in healthy people, but so far the experiments have been unsuccessful, in both human and animal studies," said lead author Devin Sok, Director, Antibody Discovery and Development at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). "This experiment demonstrates that not only is it possible to produce these antibodies in animals, but we can do so reliably, quickly, and using a relatively simple immunisation strategy when given in the right setting," Sok added. Sok is also an affiliate of IAVI's Neutralising Antibody Center (NAC), a part of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) where multiple groups of scientists work collectively on an antibody-based HIV vaccine.
One type of bnAb uses long, arm-like loops
Research has shown that some people living with chronic HIV infection produce broadly neutralising antibodies (bnAbs). This bnAbs can overcome the high levels of HIV diversity. One type of bnAb uses long, arm-like loops that are capable of reaching concealed areas on the virus's surface to block infection. However, the research raised a question that what would happen if they immunise cows with an HIV immunogen? "The answer began with a single protein on HIV's surface that serves as a bnAb target - develop an antibody that recognises variants of this protein on different HIV viruses and you'll likely be protected from all of them," the study said.
Cows cannot be infected with HIV
"Cows cannot be infected with HIV, of course. But these findings illuminate a new goal for HIV vaccine researchers: by increasing the number of human antibodies with long loops, we might have an easier chance of eliciting protective bnAbs by vaccination," the researchers noted. There is no doubt that cows' ability to produce bNAbs against a complicated pathogen like HIV in a matter of weeks, highlights even broader significance, particularly for emerging pathogens.