A team of researchers has devised a new strategy for the development of a vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The strategy entails developing a methodology that will allow the production of an effective vaccine against the wide range of strains of this virus, which currently lacks a definitive cure despite palliative and inhibitory treatments.
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The objective of this research, which has been published in the journal Immunity, was to identify a type of antibody called bnAb that, due to its characteristics, would be useful in responding to the threat of HIV in any of its variants, as well as to find human genomes capable of producing this antibody.
Scientists at Scripps Research, IAVI, the Ragon Institute, and Moderna, Inc. set out to find a way to stimulate the gradual production of bnAb after observing that patients with HIV have lower production of these antibodies and that their presence prior to the transmission of the virus can neutralize it.
The team managed to design an immunogen that stimulates the production of these antibodies, which are capable of inactivating HIV as soon as it is detected in the body. This work paves the way for the creation of an efficient vaccine formula against HIV, although it does not propose a vaccine as such, but rather a method to discover it.
“HIV remains one of the most difficult viruses to protect against due to its natural ability to rapidly mutate and evade capture by the immune system. Working closely across scientific disciplines and institutions, our team’s findings mark a step forward crucial to overcoming these historic hurdles and creating an effective HIV vaccine,” lead author Dr. William Schief, a professor at Scripps Research, said in a press release.
It should be highlighted that the immunogen has not yet been used in human clinical trials and that the experiments and tests to which the researchers have subjected it have limitations. However, if the scientists are successful in identifying a mechanism that satisfies their requirements, they may be able to produce an experimental vaccine and advance its clinical development.
According to WHO, 84.2 million people have been infected with the HIV virus since the epidemic began, and approximately 40.1 million have died as a result of the virus. At the end of 2021, 38.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV.
In the quest to find a possible cure for this disease that has impacted millions of people, the researchers will refine their vaccine approach and test it in additional models before bringing it to the clinic for human trials.