Scientists Discover Vulnerable Area on HIV That Could Lead to Development of HIV/AIDS Vaccine
February 16, 2007
Scientists on Wednesday announced they had identified a vulnerable area on HIV that might be susceptible to antibodies and could prevent the virus from infecting human cells, Reuters Health reports. The findings are published in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Nature. A team of researchers at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, led by Peter Kwong, identified a protein called gp 120 on the surface of the virus that appears susceptible to attack by an antibody called b12. HIV enters CD4+ T cells through gp 120, but b12 could block the entry process and neutralize the virus, according to Reuters Health (Dunham, Reuters Health, 2/14). According to the San Francisco Chronicle, HIV continuously changes shape, making it difficult for an antibody to attach to the virus' surface (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15). However, the gp 120 protein does not mutate (AFP/Globe and Mail, 2/15). Certain antibodies called "broadly neutralizing" antibodies -- which include b12 and for five years have been the focus of vaccine research -- have been shown to attack HIV regardless of the virus' mutations. Kwong and his team took X-rays of b12 as it attached to the virus and developed a three-dimensional map of the target site. Scientist might be able to clone the target site and create a vaccine that will allow the immune system to create HIV antibodies, the Chronicle reports. According to study co-author Dennis Burton -- an immunologist at the Scripps Howard Researcher Institute -- the b12 antibody in 1992 was isolated in the blood of an HIV-positive person who was identified as a long-term nonprogressor. Similar antibodies have since been discovered that target the same site on the virus, the Chronicle reports.
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2007 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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