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9 May 2011
New hope for HIV vaccine
by George Atkinson

New insights into how antibodies work could assist in the development of a vaccine against HIV, say University of Melbourne (Australia) researchers.

Researcher Stephen Kent explained that by investigating the action of the antibodies known as "ADCC," his team was able to identify how the virus evolves to "escape" the antibodies.

ADCC antibodies have been strongly implicated in protection from HIV in several vaccine trials but their action was poorly understood. "These results show what a slippery customer the HIV virus is, but also shows that these ADCC antibodies are really forcing the virus into changing, in ways that cause it to be weaker," Kent said. "It also implies that if good ADCC antibodies were available prior to infection, via a vaccine, we might be able to stop the virus taking hold."

The research team employed a novel technology to find where ADCC antibodies attack the HIV virus. They then looked at how the sequence of the virus had mutated over time to avoid the immune response. "There is an urgent need to identify effective immunity to HIV and our studies suggest ADCC responses supply significant immune pressure on the virus," said co-researcher Ivan Stratov.

The group is now working on designing vaccines that make it more difficult for the virus to evade the ADCC antibodies.

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Source: University of Melbourne

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