Some people infected with HIV naturally produce antibodies that effectively neutralize many strains of the rapidly mutating virus, and scientists are working to develop a vaccine capable of inducing such “broadly neutralizing” antibodies that can prevent HIV infection.
An emerging vaccine strategy involves immunizing people with a series of different engineered HIV proteins as immunogens to teach the immune system to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. This strategy depends on the ability of the first immunogen to bind and activate special cells, known as broadly neutralizing antibody precursor B cells, which have the potential to develop into broadly neutralizing antibody-producing B cells.
A research team has now found that the right precursor (“germline”) cells for one kind of HIV broadly neutralizing antibody are present in most people, and has described the design of an HIV vaccine germline-targeting immunogen capable of binding those B cells. The findings by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology were published in Science on March 25.
“We found that almost everybody has these broadly neutralizing antibody precursors, and that a precisely engineered protein can bind to these cells that…