Researchers at Center for the AIDS Program of Research (CAPRISA) discovered potent antibodies which can neutralize and kill multiple strains of HIV. The study was published in the scientific journal, Nature on 3 March 2014.
Researchers studied how a South African woman’s body referred to as CAPRISA 256 (abbreviated to CAP256) responded to her HIV infection by making potent antibodies. These potent antibodies are also called as neutralizing antibodies because of their ability to kill multiple strains of antibodies.
How the potent antibodies were developed
The potent antibodies were made by the researchers by first identifying the antibodies present in the blood of the CAP256 and then duplicating these antibodies by cloning it in the lab. The cloned antibodies were then used to elucidate the pathway followed by the immune system to make these potent antibodies.
Findings of the Research
In their earlier research in 2013, researchers at CAPRISA discovered that a shift in the position of one sugar molecule on the surface of the HIV virus led to the development of broadly neutralising antibodies against HIV.
However, in the research conducted on CAP256, the researchers were also able to isolate a broadly neutralizing antibody and trace its origins to understand exactly how it rose. This could lead to new HIV vaccine strategies that are able to stimulate the rare precursors of these protective antibodies.
The study conducted on CAP256 also showed that broadly neutralising antibodies have some unusual features. These antibodies generally have long arms which enabled them to reach through the sugar coat that protects HIV. Moreover these antibodies had long arms right at the outset requiring less time and fewer changes to become effective in killing HIV.
All HIV infected people respond to HIV by making antibodies. In most patients, these antibodies are not able to kill a wide range of HIV which is described as a lack of neutralization breadth. However, in a few infected people, they naturally make antibodies that neutralize many different kinds of HIV, with their broadly neutralizing antibodies.
South African Department of Health (SADH) has more interest in this development than anyone else in the world since South Africa has the largest burden (30 percent) HIV infection globally.
About the CAPRISA consortium
The Research team was led by Professor Lynn Morris of National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). The CAPRISA consortium included scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Cape Town, Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US and Columbia University in New York.
Funding for the research
The research was primarily funded by the US National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center and the South African Department of Science and Technology. The South African researchers also have fellowships from the Wellcome Trust, the Fogarty International Center, the National Research Foundation and the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation.