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Scripps research scientists determine structure of immune molecule that counteracts HIV strains
Date:6/1/2010

LA JOLLA, CA June 1, 2010 In findings that contribute to efforts to design an AIDS vaccine, a team led by Scripps Research Institute scientists has determined the structure of an immune system antibody molecule that effectively acts against most strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.

The study, which is being published in an advance, online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) during the week of June 1, 2010, illuminates an unusual human antibody called PG16.

"This study advances the overall goal of how to design an HIV vaccine," said Scripps Research Professor Ian Wilson, who led the team with Dennis Burton, Scripps Research professor and scientific director of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Neutralizing Antibody Center at Scripps Research. "This antibody is highly effective in neutralizing HIV-1 and has evolved novel features to combat the virus."

The Problem with HIV

According to the World Health Organization's latest statistics, around 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide. During 2008 alone, more than 2 million men, women, and children succumbed to the disease and an estimated 2.7 million were infected with HIV. One of the most compelling medical challenges today is to develop a vaccine that will provide complete protection to someone who is later exposed to this virus.

HIV causes AIDS by binding to, entering, and ultimately leading to the death of T helper cells, which are immune cells that are necessary to fight off infections by common bacteria and other pathogens. As HIV depletes the body of T helper cells, common pathogens can become potentially lethal.

An effective HIV vaccine would induce antibodies (specialized immune system molecules) against the virus prior to exposure to the virus. Also called immunoglobulins, these antibodies would circulate through the blood, and track down
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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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