A New Method for Identifying Potent HIV Antibodies

A New Method for Identifying Potent HIV Antibodies

In an article entitled, “Delineating Antibody Recognition in Polyclonal Sera from Patterns of HIV-1 Isolate Neutralization,” published in May 10, 2013, issue of Science (DOI:10.1126/science.1233989), the lead author Ivelin S. Georgiev with 24 other associates from seven research groups have developed a new tool to identify broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) capable of preventing infection by the majority of HIV strains found around the globe. This is an advancement that could help speed HIV vaccine research. Scientists have long studied HIV-infected individuals whose blood shows powerful neutralization activity Understanding how HIV bNAbs develop and attack the virus can yield clues for HIV vaccine design. But until now, available methods for analyzing blood samples did not easily yield specific information about the HIV bNAbs present or the parts of the virus they targeted. In addition, determining where and how HIV bNAbs bind to the virus has been a laborious process involving several complicated techniques and relatively large quantities of blood from individual donors. To address these problems, the research team has developed an algorithm that can predict which antibodies in the sera of HIV-infected individuals neutralize viruses. The serum of infected individuals is polyclonal, meaning it contains many different antibodies, some of which may neutralize a broad spectrum of strains of a particular virus, and others which don’t. Understanding which antibodies harbor this broadly neutralizing potential has been difficult. The researchers assessed patterns of neutralization created by mixing antibodies with 34 diverse HIV-1 strains. From this analysis, they identified 30 distinct neutralization fingerprints, some of which were specific enough to distinguish between antibodies targeting different epitopes, or tiny parts on the surface of a viral antigen. The designed algorithm also allowed them use these fingerprints to pick out neutralizing antibodies from the larger serum pattern in the sera of 24 HIV-1 infected donors. The work also offers a detailed, epitope-specific understanding of antibody responses to viruses and helps to define the molecular and structural basis of antibody response. It may pave the way for the design of new vaccines against HIV. In addition, the underlying approach could be applied to the study of human responses to other pathogens, such as influenza and hepatitis C viruses, for which scientists have already much information about neutralizing antibodies. [Summarized by Samsad Razzaque – a Research Associate in Plant Biotech lab., DU]

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