A group of American scientists managed to test on animals the possibility of making the immune system fight against HIV, which would open the way to the creation of a vaccine against that disease for humans, says an article published on December 5 in the Science magazine.

As is known, the virus can be destroyed by molecules called broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). However, these molecules are normally considered by the human immune system as a threat. In addition, they require rare genetic changes in B lymphocyte cells, a fundamental element in the creation of antibodies. The new technology allows to avoid these limitations.

“Our article in Science shows that some of the main obstacles in the development of HIV bNAbs can be overcome,” says lead author Dr. Kevin Saunders in a statement.

In particular, the scientists managed to immunize genetically altered mice, which have human antibody precursors, causing B lymphocytes to create bNAbs. Identifying the necessary mutations, which the immune system will not easily produce, and we can select them in a vaccine that targets that mutation.

“Our ability to make a mouse model that expresses widely neutralizing human antibodies has provided powerful new experimental models, in which we can iteratively test experimental HIV vaccines,” said one of the study’s authors, Frederick Alt. Researchers repeated the experiment in nonhuman primates, using another line of bNAbs in that case, and obtained similar results.

However, the creation of an effective and lasting vaccine requires continuing work, says Kevin Wiehe, who also participated in the study. With all that, the method can be applied not only to HIV treatment, but also to cancer therapies and autoimmune diseases.

“Without an adequate selection of antigens, several decades of vaccination will be needed to obtain effective antibodies. We can reduce that term by designing sequential immunogens that select the required combination of functional antibody mutations, and this study is a proof of concept that we can design the immune system to create an environment in which the correct antibodies can be produced, “says the doctor.

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