New Protein Could Be Breakthrough in HIV Prevention
The race to eradicate HIV and improve the vaccine has led to an exciting new development. Researchers within the last few weeks have published new findings regarding a protein and sugar molecule that has the potential to not only neutralize HIV, but that can connect to various strains of the virus as well.
The protein that was created mimics the outer layer of the HIV. The part of the layer that can bind to antibodies is the area researchers were targeting. This key part of the cell is where neutralizing the virus takes place. One of the factors that make the creation of this protein so important is that it may help scientists answer some of the most complex issues facing the prevention of HIV. For one thing, an antibody that can target multiple strains of the virus is hard to come by. Another problem is the response of the immune system: At times it is beneficial, but other responses can be negative and unwanted. Researchers are hoping that, with this protein, the immune system will be free to respond in a positive, beneficial way. The protein with the sugar molecule is better able to bond to the outer coat of the virus. It is hoped that broad-spectrum antibodies will be allowed to form. If this happens, the antibodies that can do the most neutralizing will have a better chance to complete their task.
Another benefit to the proteins is the potential to trigger a response from the white blood cells that produce antibodies. Should the antibodies produced by these B cells do what researchers are hoping, results could be disastrous for the virus. This aspect is what scientists are focusing on to develop an effective vaccine. Much more information is needed, as well as testing on animal subjects. This does not, however, negate the importance that this finding will have on the future of the battle against HIV.