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Compound May Protect Against HIV


NIH Research Matters 9 March 2015

  • Scientists created a compound that can protect against a wider range of HIV strains than any previous approaches.
  • The new molecule could potentially lead to a long-lasting method of HIV prevention and treatment.
HIV has proven stubbornly resistant to potential vaccines. Most vaccines work by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that help beat back infections. But proteins on HIV’s surface mutate rapidly and change shape continuously. These quick transformations keep most antibodies from latching onto and neutralizing the virus.
Researchers have found antibodies that can neutralize many different strains of HIV. These broadly neutralizing antibodies bind to small unchanging regions of the HIV envelope protein Env. But strategies to make vaccines that prompt the body to produce antibodies against these regions have had limited success.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Michael Farzan of the Scripps Research Institute took a novel approach to try to protect against a wide variety of HIV viruses. All HIV strains infect cells by attaching to the CD4 protein on the surface of target cells. The virus also must bind to another cell protein, called a coreceptor, to gain entry. Most HIV strains use the protein CCR5 as a coreceptor. Once HIV binds CD4, it changes shape to expose the part of the virus that binds CCR5.
Read more here.