BREAKTHROUGH: HIV Vaccine Development Overcome the Virus’s Elusive Nature 

HIV Vaccine Development Overcome the Virus's Elusive Nature. Credit | Getty Images
HIV Vaccine Development Overcome the Virus's Elusive Nature. Credit | Getty Images

United States: An HIV vaccine is one step closer to reality as it takes into consideration the fact that an experiment conducted on people managed to trigger rare and elusive antibodies. 

More about the finding 

Numerous challenges exist as to how an HIV vaccine can be developed to its full potential. The virus knows how to avoid the danger as it hides behind the shield, creating a protective layer of sugars that is identical to sugar produced by the human body, noted Dr. Barton Haynes, ahead of this recent trial and director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. 

The elusive virus is hard to identify 

The virus has also been proved to have a very short life cycle where it changes its form in terms of shape, size, and color, thereby making it very difficult for the body antibodies to be created to that specific type of virus since by the time the antibodies are produced the virus might have changed its form. 

A central objective in the creation of an HIV vaccine is the elicitation of broadly neutralizing antibodies, which bind to regions on the envelope protein that is virtually across all HIV subtypes. So, depending on its configuration, the antibodies prove effective against almost any variant of the virus, even if it mutates. 

HIV Vaccine Development Overcome the Virus's Elusive Nature. Credit | Shutterstock
HIV Vaccine Development Overcome the Virus’s Elusive Nature. Credit | Shutterstock

According to Thomas Hope, a professor of cell and developmental biology who studies HIV at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the challenge is that “these antibodies, naturally during infection, are very rare to find,” as reported. 

Vaccine production is difficult – Experts 

Vaccines for the most part aim to give the immune system an experience of the bodily invasion that it gets during actual infections. However, in HIV, vaccine developers have to do all this in compressed time that is in weeks they need to evoke antibodies which could take years to develop naturally. 

Notwithstanding, in a study released today (May 17) in the journal Cell, researchers have shown that this is more than is possible in humans, reported. 

Haynes said, “We’re gathering proof of concept that a vaccine could be made — can be made,” and, “We’re having to coax the immune system, to guide the immune system in a way we’ve never had to do.” 

In the trial conducted by researchers, a protein was targetted to embed in HIV’s envelop, which is a specific part of the protein known as he membrane proximal external region (MPER). 

Haynes said, “These are very unusual because they bind two things at once,” as 

He added that in order to make antibodies of the optimal shape, immunity cells are required to pick genetic mutations over time, after getting exposed to a pathogen. 

However, for reasons that are not fully understood, the mutations are needed to make antibodies against MPER, and similar targets happen very rarely.