THURSDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that
they've gained insight into the workings of the immune system's
response to HIV, the AIDS virus, in certain people, potentially
providing a boost as scientists work toward a vaccine.
The findings won't have an immediate big impact on either
vaccine research or HIV treatment. However, they do reveal how
soldiers of the immune system known as antibodies use special
powers to combat the virus in some patients, said study co-author
Dr. Michel C. Nussenzweig, a professor of immunology at The
Rockefeller University in New York City.
Ultimately, he said, scientists could develop a vaccine that
teaches people's bodies how to make the antibodies. "You'd try to
make them do it themselves," he said, instead of pumping antibodies
into the body.
Since the late 1990s, AIDS has largely become a treatable,
chronic disease. But it can still be deadly, and many scientists
think they're years away from developing a vaccine to prevent
people from becoming infected in the first place.
In the new study, published online July 14 in
Science, researchers focused on antibodies that are produced only in certain patients with HIV. They work by preventing the virus from picking the locks in cells that are supposed to keep germs out.
The problem is that the antibodies don't help cells that have
already been infected, Nussenzweig said. And the antibodies only
appear about two to three years after someone has been infected
with the virus, he said. It's not clear how much the antibodies
help those people.
Nussenzweig and colleagues were able to clone the antibodies
from four patients. "It's possible that if you were to have enough
of these things, there might even be a therapy" for people with the
virus, he said. In other words, the antibodies could become part of
However, the antibodies don't live long, meaning patients would
have to undergo repeated and regular treatments if they wanted the
protection they may be able to provide, he said. For now, he said,
the research seems more likely to help the development of a
U.S. National Institutes of Health vaccine researcher Dr. John
Mascola said the findings extend "prior work to show that the human
immune system can make antibodies that target vulnerable regions of
Dr. Jonathan D. Fuchs, director of Vaccine Studies at the San
Francisco Department of Public Health, said the findings represent
an "important advance" because they help define the types of
antibodies that vaccines need to elicit in the body.
For more about
HIV/AIDS, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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