Antibodies in cow could help develop an HIV vaccine for humans

Antibodies in cow could help develop an HIV vaccine for humans

A recent study has hinted at the possibility of developing HIV vaccines for humans with the help of cows’ antibodies.

The researchers at the International Aids Vaccine Initiative and the Scripps Research Institute carried out the study on the cattle antibodies.

Findings of the study

The researchers found that immunising cows with an HIV immunogen for the first time resulted in the cows producing powerful, HIV-blocking antibodies in a matter of weeks, a process that usually takes years in humans.
Further application of the study

The unexpected discovery in cows is providing clues for important questions at a moment when new energy has infused HIV vaccine research.

“One approach to a preventive HIV vaccine involves trying to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies in healthy people, but so far the experiments have been unsuccessful, in both human and animal studies,” said lead author Devin Sok, Director, Antibody Discovery and Development at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), according to IANS.

“This experiment demonstrates that not only is it possible to produce these antibodies in animals, but we can do so reliably, quickly, and using a relatively simple immunisation strategy when given in the right setting,” Sok added.

One type of bnAb uses long, arm-like loops that are capable of reaching concealed areas on the virus’s surface to block infection.

The scientists had a question: What would happen if they immunise cows with an HIV immunogen?

“The answer began with a single protein on HIV’s surface that serves as a bnAb target — develop an antibody that recognises variants of this protein on different HIV viruses and you’ll likely be protected from all of them,” the study said.

Why is it difficult for humans infected with HIV to make antibodies to counter them?

One of the many tricks that HIV uses to prevent humans from developing the right antibodies is to display irrelevant forms of this protein to distract the immune system.

Scientists thought they had overcome this challenge by developing an immunogen called “BG505 SOSIP”, which closely mimics the protein target.

In the new study, four cows immunised with “BG505 SOSIP” elicited “bnAbs” to HIV within 35-52 days.

In comparison, it takes HIV-positive humans multiple years to develop comparable responses, and only 5-15 per cent even develop them at all.

“Cows cannot be infected with HIV, of course. But these findings illuminate a new goal for HIV vaccine researchers: by increasing the number of human antibodies with long loops, we might have an easier chance of eliciting protective bnAbs by vaccination,” the researchers noted.

There is no doubt that the ability of cows to produce bNAbs against a complicated pathogen like HIV in a matter of weeks, highlights even broader significance, particularly for emerging pathogens.

The study is published in the prestigious journal Nature
(Source: Portal “indiatoday”)

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