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Biological catch-22 prevents induction of antibodies that block HIV
Date:12/15/2009

DURHAM, N.C. Scientists seeking to understand how to make an AIDS vaccine have found the cause of a major roadblock. It turns out that the immune system can indeed produce cells with the potential to manufacture powerful HIV-blocking antibodies but at the same time, the immune system works equally hard to make sure these cells are eliminated before they have a chance to mature.

"These studies show that a potentially protective neutralizing antibody against a viral disease is under the control of immunological tolerance," said Barton Haynes, M.D., director of the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) at Duke University Medical Center and senior author of the study appearing in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This represents a new insight into the way HIV effectively evades detection by the B cell arm of the immune system and may offer new directions for vaccine design."

Over the years, scientists have assumed that B cells one of the first lines of defense against infection are simply not able to "see" the HIV virus. HIV has the ability to hide its most vulnerable parts from immune system surveillance, and researchers generally assumed that helped explain why B cells often took weeks and even months to arise following infection.

But several years ago, Duke researchers hypothesized that the antibodies required to broadly neutralize HIV may not be produced in the first place because the immune system "sees" them as a potential threat due to their similarity to antibodies that promote autoimmune disease and destroys them.

To see if this is indeed what happens, Laurent Verkoczy, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Duke and the lead author of the study, and Haynes genetically engineered a mouse that could only produce B cells containing a rare but potent broadly neutralizing human antibody that is able to block HIV infection.

Researchers found
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Contact: Michelle Gailiun
michelle.gailiun@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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