New HIV Antibodies Created to Fight Off the Virus
Scientists have made a huge step towards fighting off the HIV virus. Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) were able to attach HIV antibodies to immune cells in their most recent study. These new cells could potentially be the cure that millions infected with the life-threatening disease need. Find out what the scientists at TSRI had to say about their research and how these new cells eliminate the virus from the body.
How Do the HIV Antibodies Work?
Typically, antibodies float in the bloodstream alongside the cells in the body. However, the HIV antibodies developed by the researchers work a little differently. The scientists were able to tether the antibodies to immune cells. This technique created a new population of resistant cells that can replace cells affected by the disease.
This close connection with the immune cells is what Jia Xie, a senior staff scientist at TSRI and first author of the study, called the “neighbor effect.” Essentially, the antibodies hang on to a cell’s surface, acting as a barrier between HIV and the cell’s receptor. This action prevents HIV from infecting the cells and spreading throughout the body.
“This protection would be long term,” said Jia Xie. “You don’t need to have so many molecules on one cell to be effective,” he said.
How Was the Test Preformed?
Xie and his researchers first tested the tethering system against the rhinovirus, which is otherwise known as the common cold. The researchers were able to apply a new gene to cultured human cells. This gene is the one responsible for the creation of the antibodies that attached to immune cells.
The antibodies protected the cell receptors from the virus, halting infection. When adding rhinovirus to the testing, many of the unprotected cells died off. However, the newly created antibodies were able to thrive as the number of cell populations recovered to almost normal levels.
The next step after this success was to test the antibodies against HIV. The goal was for the HIV antibodies to protect the CD4 cells, which are usually the target of HIV. In the end, an HIV-resistant population of cells grew, while the old cells died. This is exactly the type of success that the team at TSRI was looking for.
What This Means for the Future
Antiretroviral drugs are the primary defense against HIV. The problem with this type of medication is that they have to be taken daily. Sometimes, HIV-positive individuals still suffer from higher rates of diseases when taking the drugs.
When discussing the TSRI’s research and new techniques, Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., director of Value-Based Analytics at the City of Hope, states “HIV is treatable but not curable–this remains a disease that causes a lot of suffering. That makes the case for why these technologies are so important.”
The research still has a long way to go. Scientists are testing to find out what other parts of the cell the new antibodies can protect. Hopefully, this can lead to a potential cure.