According to a new study, US researchers have developed a new approach to vaccine design that could be useful against Human Immunodeficiency Virus and other viruses that have the ability to change their structure quickly.
The study was published on March 28 in Science Express, the early online edition of the journal Science. The research offers a step toward solving what has been one of the main problems of modern vaccine design – how to stimulate the immune system to produce the right kind of antibody response to protect against a wide range of viral strains.
The new technique for vaccine design has been developed by a team of scientists from the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Using this technique, scientists engineered an immunogen – meaning a substance that induces immunity – that promises to reliably initiate an otherwise rare effective response against many types of HIV.
Team leader William R. Schief, associate professor of immunology and member of the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center at TSRI, said: “We’re hoping to test this immunogen soon in mice engineered to produce human antibodies, and eventually in humans”.
For highly variable viruses such as HIV and influenza, vaccine researchers want to elicit antibodies that protect against most or all viral strains — not just a few strains, as seasonal flu vaccines currently on the market. Vaccine researchers have identified several of these broadly neutralizing antibodies from long-term HIV-positive survivors, harvesting antibody-producing B cells from blood samples and then sifting through them to identify those that produce antibodies capable of neutralizing multiple strains of HIV.
Such broadly neutralizing antibodies typically work by blocking crucial functional sites on a virus that are conserved among different strains despite high mutation elsewhere. However, even with these powerful broadly neutralizing antibodies in hand, scientists need to find a way to elicit their production in the body through a vaccine.
References: Science Daily