HIV Cure: Vaccine or AIDS Cure Getting Close, as Experts Find Antibodies Capable of Fighting Infection

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By Ryan Inoyori | March 4, 2014 7:18 PM EST

Medical researchers are looking into the antibodies of a woman to derive clues to create an HIV vaccine or possible cure against AIDS. The research team found that her antibodies can neutralise HIV which may lead to the end of the war against the pandemic.

Woman With HIV Neutralising Antibodies

A team of American and South African researchers published a study in the scientific journal Nature revealing neutralising antibodies from a KwaZulu-Natal woman which responded against her HIV infection. Her neutralising antibodies had "long arms" which were able to reach through the sugar coat that protects HIV.

The research team duplicated the antibodies of the donor, CAP256, by cloning for laboratory purposes. The antibodies from CAP256 were analysed from 6 to 225 weeks after infection, and they revealed potency after 3 years of infection due to evolution.

"These potent antibodies take years to develop as antibodies constantly evolve. We discovered Caprisa 256's potent antibodies three years after she got infected, so we went backwards in time and traced how they changed over time. The reason for that is that it takes several weeks for the antibodies to develop while the virus continues to constantly change. By the time the antibodies become available, they're no longer working for the HIV that exists in the person's body at that time," said Salim Abdool Karim, co-author of the study and head of Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, as quoted by Mail and Guardian.

CAP256

Most people infected with HIV do not have neutralising antibodies that can fight off the infection and rely on antiretroviral drug therapy to prevent AIDS stage. But few individuals in the world have antibodies naturally capable of fighting off the virus and keeping it at bay.

CAP256 provides scientific evidence that some people have that rare immune mechanism to fight off HIV. Normally, antibodies fight off infection similar to how chickenpox or measles antibodies work. This means that antibodies for chickenpox or measles destroy the virus that causes these diseases. Unfortunately, the same is not the case with HIV. Instead of overcoming the virus, the antibodies co-exist with the HIV.

Members of the research team studying CAP256 are cloning her antibodies that neutralises HIV-1 type. But the mechanism on how it works remain mysterious up this date. Here are partial details regarding their study:

  1. 12 somatically related neutralising antibodies found.
  2. Each antibody contained several characteristics such as tyrosine-sulphated and anionic antigen-binding loop.
  3. Neutralised the virus 15 weeks after initial infection.

Using their current data and further experimentation on the neutralising antibodies of CAP256, members of the research team hope to derive a better formula to create a vaccine for the virus. The team's primary laboratory studies will include testing in animals to prove safety and effectiveness.

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