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Antibody Discovered To Boost HIV Vaccines 144

Posted by kdawson
from the nowhere-to-hide dept.
An anonymous reader sends this clip from Scienceblog.com. "Scientists have discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90 percent of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells in the laboratory, and have demonstrated how one of these disease-fighting proteins accomplishes this feat. ... Research efforts to find individual antibodies that can neutralize HIV strains have been difficult because the virus continuously changes its surface proteins to evade recognition by the immune system. As a consequence of these changes, an enormous number of HIV variants exist worldwide. However, there are a few surface areas that remain nearly constant across all variants of HIV and scientists have now discovered two potent human antibodies that attach to one of these sites and can stop more than 90 percent of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells in the laboratory. ... The researchers also confirmed that VRC01 does not bind to human cells — a characteristic that might otherwise lead to its elimination during immune development, a natural mechanism the body employs to prevent autoimmune disease."
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Antibody Discovered To Boost HIV Vaccines

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  • by beschra (1424727) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:31PM (#32852504)
    But I have to wonder if the region that doesn't normally morph will start morphing if it starts being targetted. HIV is a tough little bugger. Very borg-like.
    • by easterberry (1826250) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:41PM (#32852622)
      Some of it probably will eventually, but they can probably cure or prevent the spread of at least a decent percentage of people.

      So it's a win for the medical community and human race in general either way.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Mister Whirly (964219)

        but they can probably cure or prevent the spread of at least a decent percentage of people.

        but they can probably cure or prevent the spread of at least a decent percentage of wealthy people.

        Which is already being done in the most part in most first world countries. The problem is the lower rung countries that can't afford even simple education on how the disease spreads. It is a Catch-22 of sorts - pharmaceutical companies don't want to come up with a cheap enough vaccine that will be effective in poorer countries where it is needed most becasue they won't profit enough. Unless someone can stil

        • The Gates Foundation might pick it up...
          • by turgid (580780)

            The Gates Foundation might pick it up...

            Indeed: the more people that are alive for longer, the more Windows and Microsoft Office licenses will be bought.

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          Where is the catch-22 (paradox) in that? They don't want to make a treatment that won't earn them back the money they spent on it... Sounds like standard operating procedure to me for any for-profit company. It sucks, yes; but is it a paradox? Not really.

          Joseph Heller just died a little more (he is already dead, I know.)

    • Not the mechanism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aepervius (535155) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:43PM (#32852648)
      It won#t start suddenly morphing. What will happen, is that the strain which DO morph will be selected for, as they will more easily spread, than the one stopped by this antibody. But I would not put my hope too high. "In laboratory" means in-vitro. A lot of stuff works in vitro, but never pan out.
    • by Gotung (571984) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:43PM (#32852650)
      The region that doesn't change is the binding site. If that changes the virus will likely be much less effective at binding onto immune cells. If it can't target immune cells anymore, it becomes much less scary.
      • by jack2000 (1178961)
        Can't the same technique "target binding site parts of virus" work for every other type of virus?
        Does this mean we're about to win the virus arms race?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hitmark (640295)

          not by a long shot.

        • by Jenming (37265)

          Yes "target active or binding sites on virus'" is a strategy that can be applied to all types of virus'.

          However this is not a new strategy and so does not signal the end.

          • by DJRumpy (1345787)

            This could be huge. If I'm understanding this correctly, they basically set a "Venus Fly Trap" that collects specific antibodies that attach to this customized HIV Virus/molecule. Using this technology, they could basically build custom 'catchers' to collect all sorts of anti-bodies that may have been previously missed, once they identify the surface proteins that these antibodies normally key to. Hopefully someone familiar with molecular biology can clarify, but it reads as if they design a customized HIV

      • There are already drugs that inhibit CD4+T lymphocite binding in addition to drugs that stop reverse transcriptase against HIV RNA and yet STILL more drugs that inhibit the protein folding process HIV needs to change into a useful virion. Presuming this antibody does work, what then? Does at least cover HIV1 as well as HIV2?

    • From the article

      antibodies specific to the site where the virus binds to cells it infects.

      so it probably does morph there, but then it doesn't go anywhere (or successfully infect future cells). Their device then blocks the site so that the virus can't attack immune cells. Seems difficult to get around... but they say 10% of the existing HIV already has... so yeah, it can.

    • Prevents CD4 binding (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Which is the mechanism that HIV uses to do the borg-like stuff. If the borg had no ability to assimilate, nobody would be scared of them.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:55PM (#32852790) Journal
      Although I find what you suggest unlikely, one thing for sure, if 90% of the HIV population is eliminated, the other 10% will fill its niche. That is the nature of natural selection. Not even a creationist will deny that point.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeng (926980)

        If you cure 90% of those with HIV you have also reduced the possible spread of infection by 90%.

        Eventually that 10% may swell to pre-vaccine ( if this pans out ) levels, but it would take decades for HIV to get back up to the level of infection it is at today ( if this pans out ).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Haffner (1349071)
          What that really depends on is whether multiple strains infect the same individual. If, as you suggest, each individual is infected by 1 strain, then this solution indeed would cure 90% of the population (assuming it works). However, if each individual is infected by 500 strains, this solution will cure a tiny fraction of 1% of the population.
          • by dintech (998802)

            Also, this just gives more real-estate for the remaining 10% to spread. See DDT [wikipedia.org] for reference. Undoubtedly DDT saved a lot of lives but it's only a dip in the upward trend.

        • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:12PM (#32852990) Journal
          Eh, as long as we're talking about infection rates and cure speeds, you should also note that they aren't going to cure 90% of those with HIV (or vaccinate everyone so those 90% of HIV strains stop spreading). The vaccination rate will be slow, not instantaneous, and it will give time for the other 10% of strains to fill the void. How many lives are saved depends on how quickly the vaccination moves out, how many people get it, and how quickly the other strains spread.

          Incidentally, condoms work so well at preventing HIV from spreading that if everyone used them, the propagation rate of HIV would likely be dropped below a sustainable level, and AIDS would disappear. In Nevada brothels that use condoms, HIV rates are quite low.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Nadaka (224565)

            The thing about an antibody treatment is that it is theoretically possible to actually cure someone someone with HIV.

            If the antibodies are sufficiently effective they prevent the existing viruses from infecting new cells and eventually the body will run out of previously infected cells.

            At that point the person would be cured.

          • Unless we do it like we did with Smallpox where we just aggressively push the vaccination around the world to everybody. That way there's no time for the 10% to fill the gaps.
          • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:01PM (#32853556)

            Condoms are differentially permeable membranes.

            Think about that for a minute, or twenty, which is how often they recommend changing gloves if you work with blood.

            • by u38cg (607297)
              If you're implying that viruses can get through condoms, cite, please. Because you appear to be trolling.
              • ok from what I read the virus could get through the condom, the cells which are playing host for the virus however can not.
                Sorry I do not have any sources, its been a while since I looked that up (in response to the same kind of jibberjabber from some catholic nutball spouting nonsense)

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I am impressed by your knowledge of Nevada brothels and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Drift3r (685496)

            Incidentally, condoms work so well at preventing HIV from spreading that if everyone used them, the propagation rate of HIV would likely be dropped below a sustainable level, and AIDS would disappear. In Nevada brothels that use condoms, HIV rates are quite low.

            I would agree with this statement. If everybody used condoms, then I could say the same thing about the propagation of pregnancy rates. If everybody used them, humans would likely be dropped below a sustainable level, and would disappear!

        • by sjames (1099)

          And the remaining strains will be more homogeneous so that other attacks are easier.

      • If you don't give the chance to fill the niche (through education, campaigns, condom give aways, chastity belts and whatnot), then it would not spread that much.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Lord Ender (156273)

        A creationist would argue that the lord sent AIDS to punish sinners.

      • Viruses and germs that evolve around an antibody or antibiotic tend to be less virulent than the wild strain. Without the antibody or antibiotic, the wild strain has predominated against all other strains, including the resistant strain. The resistant strain tends to be less efficient at survival than the wild strain. If the strains of HIV that are best able to bind with human immune cells are knocked out, the ten percent left may be less able to spread than the existing strains. If you assume that the spre

        • by Jenming (37265)

          What studies?
          Is that 1 in 500 you claim the risk for the women or the man? Or perhaps an average of the two?
          I agree educating people is key, but I also think it is rather irresponsible to write a post claiming that heterosexual sex with an HIV-infected person will be ok 499 out of 500 times with posting some very solid evidence to go a long with it.

    • Since the part of the virus they are targeting is the part the virus uses to infect human cells, if it morphs the virus will not be able to infect human cells.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Possibly, but it's harder for a virus to change functional sites enough to evade antibodies without becoming non-functional in the process.

  • Let's hope they can figure out away to create something good from this.. and yet I wonder if the guy whose body they came from will get any piece of the profits.. Let's hope he does..

    • Re:Techno Puzzle (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:35PM (#32852544)

      and yet I wonder if the guy whose body they came from will get any piece of the profits.. Let's hope he does..

      Why?

      The only logically reason why he deserves anything would be to encourage others to get tested for similar things, and I don't see too many researchers looking desperately looking for random people to come forward and have their antibodies tested.

      • and yet I wonder if the guy whose body they came from will get any piece of the profits.. Let's hope he does..

        Why?

        The only logically reason why he deserves anything would be to encourage others to get tested for similar things, and I don't see too many researchers looking desperately looking for random people to come forward and have their antibodies tested.

        If a corporation finds a gold vein on property for which I own the mineral rights, because I asked them to test a sample of rock I'd found, I would expect them to pay me for the gold.

    • Re:Techno Puzzle (Score:4, Informative)

      by PerfectionLost (1004287) <ben AT perfectresolution DOT com> on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:44PM (#32852670)

      He won't. You opt out as part of your agreement to lab testing. There was an article about this on NPR a couple months ago, but I can't seem to find it.

  • Sounds good... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mea37 (1201159) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:43PM (#32852652)

    ...at least in the short term. But while my understanding is limited, one question seems glaring to me:

    If you cook up a medicine that treats 90% of HIV strains, in the long run are you doing anything more than ensuring that the remaining 10% become the entire body of the disease?

    • Re:Sounds good... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by exasperation (1378979) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:46PM (#32852702)
      No. You're drastically reducing the number of possible infections. 90% of exposures would be immunized against.
      • by mea37 (1201159)

        Again, that's the short term. 90% of the infections you would encounter today would be immunized against (assuming even distribution of strains, and assuming that every infection source only hosts a single strain; if those assumptions don't hold then you could be immunizing against anywhere from 0% to 100% of actual infections).

        Now, what happens to a strain of infection that can't find a host? It stops replicating and dies out. Eventually all of the HIV virus that's still alive is from the 10% you weren'

        • But we can more easily contain, control and prevent it now than we could when the epidemic started. Basically, to use a video game metaphor, it's like loading up the old save with new knowledge of how the fight goes.

          Yes you are technically in the exact same position you were last time but you have a much better chance of winning this time.
          • by linhares (1241614)
            It's a _very broad_ antibody, so here's another analogy: if you can only eat carrots, will *you* still be *you* in the long run? The major thing I see in these papers is that there's a new method for finding out the one-in-a-million antibody that gets to a seemingly "stable" (hard to mutate) part of the virus envelope. So I think that not only can these two newfound antibodies, *in principle*, hold out 90%+ of the strains, but a) they just might be putting the other strains on such "a miserable carrot di
    • You're helping 90% of the worlds HIV epidemic. If they can do this smallpox immunity style they can reduce the "HIV Epidemic" to "The HIV problem that we are in the midst of eradicating"
      • by mea37 (1201159)

        I think you're playing fast and loose with that 90% figure.

        "90% of known straims" does not mean the same thing as "all strains present in 90% of infected persons".

        More to the point, in the long view you're only "in the midst of eradicating" the problem if you have a way to address the remaining strains.

        • More to the point, in the long view you're only "in the midst of eradicating" the problem if you have a way to address the remaining strains.

          containment, quarantine, education, getting the god damn catholic church out of Africa. (nothing against religion but, really, they're telling people in the middle of an AIDS epidemic that condoms are evil is not helping).

          Besides, Even if only helps 50% of the people given it due to mutation and multiple strains and whatnot. It'll at least slow down the rate of infection as less people will be transmitting it.

          • Based on a few papers I found and a few quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations, it should help at least 10.3% of the infected population and at best will help 96%. The huge amount of variability comes from not knowing much about superinfection in HIV. I'd also like to know what strains VRC01 and VRC02 specifically /don't/ target; if the researchers are referring to HIV-1M, O, and N and HIV-2, then "over 90%" means 23/25 is covered, so I'm betting HIV-1N [see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HIV-SI [wikimedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Vaccines and antibiotics have never been more than a temporary measure against disease. Resistant HIV strains will become more common, just as resistant strains of Staph have. But if we can save millions of lives in the mean time, that's a good thing.

    • You may get lucky enough to cause a bottleneck in the population, so that the majority of those left have the same weakness. Then wash rince and repeat.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      If you cook up a medicine that treats 90% of HIV strains, in the long run are you doing anything more than ensuring that the remaining 10% become the entire body of the disease?

      Yes, but you've cured 90% of your patients. By your logic we'd not use antibiotics at all for anything.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by mea37 (1201159)

        "By your logic we'd not use antibiotics at all for anything"

        Really? Where in my logic did that conclusion come in? I defy you to point out where I said this treatment shouldn't be used. In your world is pointing out the limitations of a solution the same as saying not to use the solution? What a sad little world you must live in.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          The same logic applies. Antibiotics kill all but the most resistant strains of the bacteria, making those resistant strains the entire body of the disease. It's the same thing.

          What a sad little world you must live in.

          What's sad is someone who has to personally attack someone for pointing out a logical fallacy.

          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by mea37 (1201159)

            What's sad is how impressively you're missing the point.

            I did not say this treatment shoudln't be used. I defy you to point out where I did.

            You were not personally attacked for pointing out a logical fallacy. You were personally attacked for putting words in my mouth in an attempt to create a logical fallacy. The longer you keep trying to put words in my mouth, the longer I will continue personally attacking you, because you are being an asshat.

            I hope I typed this one slowly enough for you to follow alon

        • in the long run are you doing anything more than ensuring that the remaining 10% become the entire body of the disease?

          The implication of that statement is that this treatment isn't doing anything besides ensuring that the surviving population of the virus is immune to the treatment. However, it's also saving a lot of lives in the meantime. You may not have meant it that way (and I don't think you did), but the way you worded it, I can see how someone might think you did. I think it was just slightly poor phrasing on your part.

          • by mea37 (1201159)

            Perhaps, except by selectively quoting only that statement you've removed the entire logical structure of my actual comment.

            "The implication of that statement is that this treatment isn't doing anything besides ensuring that the surviving population of the virus is immune to the treatment" in the long term. "However, it's also saving a lot of lives in the meantime" (i.e. in the short term).

            What I actually said (not your selective quoting from it) is exactly what I meant; I'm sorry if you find the phrasing

    • In the long term, certainly yes, variants of disease that are are not recognized by the immune system or resistant to existing treatments will spread again, even from a small core, perhaps one created by accidental mutations. Influenza, of course, manages to do so every year, demonstrating how efficient viruses can be at playing this game. Experience with bacteria and parasites (malaria) is also rather discouraging.

      However, how fast that occurs depends on quite a number of factors, including the ability of

    • by mortonda (5175)

      You're right, it's hopeless, lets pack up and go home.

      • by mea37 (1201159)

        You're right, discussing the limitations of a proposed treatment is useless, lets just discuss only the most rosy picture we can imagine of how this will work out (and then pretend we're surprised when it doesn't happen as we'd hoped).

  • So... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I understand this is a great achievement in preventing the spread of the disease, but won't the long-term effect just be that the 10% of the virus that's unaffected becomes 100% of what's spreading?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      yes, at 1/10th the rate... that is a good thing

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spazdor (902907) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:58PM (#32852812)

      That's a great outcome. Remember, the people who have a strain of HIV from the other 90%, aren't going to get re-infected with one from the 10%. They will just be rendered effectively uncontagious.

      It's a one-time thing, to be sure; the resistant strain will spread at the same rate of growth - but it will do so from a severely stunted starting point.

      Assuming this works, it means a one-time epidemiological "rewind" - suddenly we'll have the much lower HIV rates we had 30 or 40 years ago, but we'll have the knowledge and preparedness of today. Imagine if we could use 2010's pharmaceuticals to nip the epidemic in the bud back then!

  • HIV off the radar? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Geeky (90998) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:52PM (#32852762)

    I grew up in the 80s when HIV was big news and - here in the UK - TV ads warning of the dangers of unsafe sex were aired. A whole generation seemed to have grown up paranoid (perhaps rightly) about unprotected sex.

    That seems to have faded and it's now seen as largely a third world problem. It seems that teenagers and twenty somethings have drifted back into behaviour that predated the advent of AIDS - and more. It's like they've worked out that it's still unlikely to affect them as it hasn't really got a grip in their demographic.

    Sadly that's led to a massive increase in other, albeit treatable, STDs.

    • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:34PM (#32854024) Journal
      The rise in the use of methamphetamines seems to have driven a lot of this behavioral change: people don't do a great job of thinking long-term under those circumstances. Dan Savage of Savage Love fame has written and talked about this extensively, because meth is such a large factor in the rave/dance scene, particularly the gay dance scene.

      What I think is more depressing is a sense of the inevitability of AIDS, coupled with a sense that AIDS is at least manageable (IF you have good medical insurance) that leads a lot of young gay men to pretty much shrug and decide they'll deal with AIDS when they get it. My girlfriend's best friend is a wonderful guy and not particularly stupid, but he was all twitterpated over this boy in California who was HIV positive, and was ready to go out there and move in with the guy, and when we were like "WHY??!?" he shrugged and said "love's worth AIDS." Which makes me question my characterization of him as not particularly stupid, but I think twenty-three-year-olds sometimes have issues actually comprehending what 50 years of an expensive daily drug regimen would be like.

      • by linhares (1241614)

        but I think twenty-three-year-olds sometimes have issues actually comprehending what 50 years of an expensive daily drug regimen would be like.

        incredibly insightful remark. Here's more food for thought. http://web.mit.edu/ariely/www/MIT/Papers/Heat_of_Moment.pdf [mit.edu]

        • I hadn't read that, and it was interesting. I'm going to send it to our friend. I have read a fair bit about people having long-term planning issues before age 25, with a general conclusion that people aren't really adult until then (whatever 'adult' means: people still make dumb decisions when they're 80, if the expected payout is high enough.) And I'm glad you thought it was insightful: someone modded me flamebait, when I'd put actual thought into composing that rather than my usual offhand blathering.
    • The US has areas that have a higher rate of _heterosexual_ HIV than African countries. The thing is, that in African, parasites and malaria are major factors in making AIDS spread more rapidly. In the US IV drug use is a major factor. In both countries treatable STD's like Chlamydia and gonorrhea are major factors. However, non-treatable STI's like HSV2 and HPV are also major factors.

      Aids deaths are declining in developed countries due to improved drug treatments. However,the number of folks living

  • by overshoot (39700) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:05PM (#32852866)
    An HIV researcher's take on the news. [scienceblogs.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The 10 percent that that are immune to the antibodies will take over and become the new 90 percent.

  • Andromeda has mutated to a noninfectious form!

  • And the news is... ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mortiss (812218) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:01PM (#32853558)

    I fail to see the hype. There are plenty of great anti-HIV antibodies which are well described. These have a great cross-reactivity to many HIV strains and are directed against very conserved regions of envelope proteins. The trouble lies that no one so far has been able to find a way to produce them in a patient's body in large amounts. In addition, it is well known that Ab response is not really the way to go. Current HIV vaccines designs are moving towards inducing a innate immunity responses and also focus on T-cell not B-cell mediated immunity.

  • by johnpc831 (1852508) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:31PM (#32853974)
    If my memory of microbiology serves me correctly, the variance in HIV has more to do with the super error-prone reverse transcription process than it does with the virus actually trying to evade destruction. Transcribing DNA from RNA also requires elements of the host cell, which can vary from person to person, and there is no error checking done at all.
    • the variance in HIV has more to do with the super error-prone reverse transcription process than it does with the virus actually trying to evade destruction

      There is no intent in evolution. Error-prone copying is just a means to be able to evade destruction.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:33PM (#32854004)

    have been difficult because the virus continuously changes its surface proteins to evade recognition by the immune system.

    Yeah, almost like it was intelligently designed to be as difficult to kill as possible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by linhares (1241614)
      then your intelligent designer decided to bring to this world lots and lots of innocent infected babies

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