Posts tagged eliminating viruses
The race to find a potential drug for HIV started decades ago. Today, however, it seems that the pace has increased. Ongoing research digs up more and more information on the mechanics of the virus, potential weaknesses and, of course, varying antibodies.
Antibody VRC01 as a Potential Drug for HIV
Sorting through the growing amounts of data that studies are yielding is an ongoing process. Scientists have been able to pick out some leads that seem to hold the most promise. One of those is the antibody VRC01. There has been a lot of buzz around this particular antibody as it has potential to block the most-common HIV strands.
Testing has proven this antibody to be effective in nearly 90% of the viral strains of HIV known around the world. Its large scope makes it ideal for testing as a potential drug for HIV. Current prevention plans require volunteer patients to take oral doses on a daily basis in order for them to be effective. The goal with the studies being conducted is to develop treatments that last longer. It is hoped that this approach would prompt more people to be proactive related to prevention than those who currently do so.
The trials underway are multinational. Participants will receive injections every couple of weeks and be tested for HIV every four weeks. The study will be ongoing for the next several years. Those volunteering will be divided into groups. One group will be given a placebo while the others will receive various doses of the VRC01 antibody, based on their group. However, all volunteers will continue to receive information on prevention, including daily preventative drug therapies. Because different countries are involved, each volunteer will be directed to facilities that will be able to dispense the proper medication.
For countries where HIV infections are on the rise, this study will be of great benefit as volunteers will be educated and instructed about where to receive important services. This information will hopefully spread and have a positive effect on the situations that persist. The outcome of the trial is still several years off, but it holds promise of a potential drug for HIV, and more effective way to ward off infection.
The link between HIV infection and the progression of other conditions is still a bit of a mystery. This is certainly the case when it comes to the body’s inability to keep in check the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, while in the presence of HIV. However, new insight into how the connection between the two conditions work, and how the immune system comes into play, has recently been published. This information could lead to further understanding of how to best treat the two conditions and support important immune system functions.
A large percentage of the population has the bacterium that develops into tuberculosis in their system. The immune system is generally quite adept at keeping the pathogen under control. For those who have this bacterium and are also infected with HIV, the tendency is to eventually develop tuberculosis as the HIV progresses. It was generally assumed that a weakened immune system, brought about by HIV infection, was the reason behind tuberculosis development in infected patients. This is not necessarily the case.
How HIV Progression Affects Tuberculosis in the Body
The published information painstakingly compared what was happening during each stage of HIV infection—with the effect on the immune system. What researchers found was that in the early stages of HIV infection, a function of the immune system diminishes. That component, called IL-10, is used to reduce inflammation. As HIV progresses, interferon response is noted. This is an antiviral immune response, but it dampens defense against tuberculosis.
The imbalance of immune support when the two infections are both present seems to be what accounts for the progression into tuberculosis. It should also be noted that other dangerous conditions can present suddenly in such an environment. Regulating the imbalance is what researchers are hoping to achieve as they continue to examine their findings. If successful, they will be able to modify the responses of the immune system to effectively combat both pathogens. This is important research as it relates to helping HIV-positive individuals to deal with secondary diseases as HIV progresses.
A boost to the war against HIV would be to produce an effective vaccine. Over the decades, research has continued to provide promising strategies for disengaging the viral attack on a host. However, much of this research comes to a halt when it comes time to implement the information. The reason for this standstill has to do with the actual physical makeup of the virus. Creating an antibody has proven not to be out of the scientists’ reach, but getting that antibody to stick to the virus has.
Next Step Toward a Vaccine
In order to neutralize the invading virus, the antibody must attach itself. HIV is so well protected that this has proven futile. In an effort to see vulnerabilities in the viral membrane, researchers have tried to get a closer look at some of the external parts that are attached to the membrane. For years, this also seemed out of reach. Many of the proteins that are attached to the virus are delicate and unstable. Attempts at capturing the image resulted in breaking the structure because of its fragile nature. This losing streak, though, just came to an end. Finally, a high-resolution image of a key protein on the outside of the viral wall has been taken. Now, scientists will be able to study the segment and see what approach to take so that antibodies can adequately attach themselves.
This protein is not only a vulnerable part of the virus, but it also happens to be very consistent among various strands of HIV. In other words, it does not mutate as much as other structures. This means that when a vaccine is produced with antibodies that can attach to this protein, it should be able to cover a vast array of HIV infections. There will be no need for multiple vaccines. Also discovered is that while this would be an ideal site to neutralize the virus, there is a shield around it. This sugar-like substance conceals the area and will make contact difficult for antibodies. Taking a closer look at these molecules will help researchers break down the defense so that the immune system can do its job.
Antiretroviral therapies are efficient at lowering HIV levels in the blood. They suppress these levels enough that the virus can become virtually undetectable, making it hard to cure. While this provides the patient with a measure of health, and also slows disease progression, it is not enough to completely eradicate the virus from the body. Why is this the case? What is the key to eliminating the tenacious invader completely so as to have a cure?
Progress Towards a Cure
Study after study continues to show that antiretroviral therapy alone cannot completely rid the body of HIV. It is true that low viral levels within the blood can prove lifesaving, but HIV finds a way to hide, replicate, and even thrive. Attempting to kill off the virus in these areas is the key to completely wiping it out. Blood levels can be kept low because the drugs can effectively work within the vascular network. Researchers are finding that stores of HIV are located within the lymphatic system, specifically in lymph nodes and like tissues.
This presents challenges for healthcare. One, it is difficult for pharmaceuticals to reach the specific tissues where the virus replicates. It is rare for medications to filter into these lymph nodes. Also, there is the matter of viral mutation. As HIV patients increase in numbers, changes in the disease’s resistance to drugs begins to appear.
The good news is that usually it is the non-resistant form of the virus that hides and replicates. Once it releases into the blood, the drug therapies are still effective. Also, when researchers exposed the infected tissues to the drugs, the infection could be cleared. However, depending on the type and concentration of the drug therapy, the amount of drug-resistant HIV can fluctuate, making things complicated.
Further investigation is underway about how to infiltrate lymphatic tissue in order to remove stores of HIV. Researchers are convinced that once they gain a better understanding of how to reach these areas—combined with antiretroviral therapies—a cure for HIV will be at hand. Until then, daily treatment is the only way to keep the disease from progressing.
Antibodies, also known as Y-shaped proteins produced by plasma cells, play an important role in keeping us healthy and free from infection. Now, HIV research scientists have identified a protein known as bNAbs. It stands for ‘broadly neutralizing antibodies’ and it may hold the promise of preventing HIV infections. The virus has spikes on it – not unlike many villains – and it uses these to bind and take over healthy cells.
The envelope spike or protein is the preferred target for the bNAbs. They are well equipped to recognize and subdue the virus. However, each type of bNAb is programmed to target specific epitopes or antigens on the spike. Certain bNAbs, therefore, have greater success in suppressing the virus than others. What most known bNAbs do have in common is that they tend to recognize the envelope spike in its closed position.
A virus will attach itself to a healthy cell, but in doing so the spike will open and close – depending on the stage it’s in. One lab has discovered a particular bNAb that can detect the virus when the spike is closed but also when it is partially opened. It was found while the research team was studying the antibodies of those whose bodies successfully control the HIV infection on their own. What is this special antibody called? 8ANC195. Continued efforts to see how 8ANS195 does what it does may lead to big things.
This could prove extremely beneficial in aiding those who are battling with HIV infection. These bNAbs could prove invaluable in identifying and neutralizing HIV that has gone undetected by the immune system. Seeing as most bNAbs target the virus when the envelope spike is closed, the virus with an open spike is free to continue unhindered. Now, with the discovery of antibodies that can detect the virus in its different forms, treatments can be more effective.
For HIV research, the promise of hope offered by these special bNAbs comes with more good news – it could be available in treatments in a short period of time. Clinical trials are already under way. Also, plans to make the antibodies even more effective are in the works. Researchers feel that introducing this bNAb to the cocktail will enhance the treatment therapies currently used.