Engineered antibodies fight AIDS virus in monkeys

Sun May 17, 2009 1:17pm EDT
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers may have discovered a technique that will eventually lead to a way to vaccinate against the AIDS virus, by creating an artificial antibody carried into the body by a virus.

This synthetic immune system molecule protected monkeys against an animal version of HIV called SIV, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

While it will be years before the concept could be tested in humans, it opens up the possibility of protecting people against the fatal and incurable virus.

"Six of nine immunized monkeys were protected against infection by the SIV challenge, and all nine were protected from AIDS," Philip Johnson of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues wrote.

Several attempts to create a vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS have failed.

AIDS not only attacks the immune cells that usually defend against viruses, but it quickly hides out in an as-yet undiscovered "reservoir" so the immune system must be primed to capture virtually every single virus.

In addition, people do not usually make antibodies against the virus. Antibodies are immune system particles that latch on to invaders so killer cells can destroy them.

Johnson's team engineered an artificial piece of DNA that would make artificial antibodies, called antibody-like proteins or immunoadhesins. They made three different versions.   Continued...