Here’s a spectacular story of nature and technological potential all rolled into one fascinating physiological process–the incredible human immune system. Researchers have found previously unknown antibodies that might prevent HIV from entering cells. This immune system soldier could potentially be the key to discovering a long-awaited vaccine against the illusive virus. The magnificence of the human body never fails to amaze me.
According to researchers, the newly found antibodies (three to be exact) neutralize more than 90 percent of a group of HIV-1 strains, involving all major genetic subtypes of the virus. They do so by acting as gumming agents tying up the lock that the HIV virus “picks” in order to enter a cell.
These antibodies only appear to exist in some people, and even in the fortunate carriers they fail to make enough to totally clear the virus. Enter human technology: The idea scientists have is to coax the body, through a vaccine, to produce the virus-neutralizing antibody.
Scientists admit that they are several years away from fully developing the vaccine but remain hopeful. “The goal is to vaccinate individuals and have their own immune systems make an antibody like this,” said Dr. John Mascola, a vaccine researcher and co-author of two new studies on the soldier antibodies. “To do that, we have to design a new vaccine, study it first in animal models and then try it in small scale human studies, and see if it does what we expect it to do. That takes a quite a bit of time and effort.”
I have no doubt we will be hearing more about these antibodies in the future. They exist and have now been uncovered; we are sure to learn much more about where they come from, how they operate, and whether they are truly unique to some, or if we all have the potential to develop them. Pretty cool, huh?