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New technique of cellular vaccination against HIV

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have found a way to tether HIV-fighting antibodies to immune cells, creating a cell population resistant to the virus. Researchers have used membrane-tethered, receptor blocking antibodies to achieve this outcome.

Here, cells protected from rhinovirus by membrane-tethered,
receptor-blocking antibodies survive well and form colonies.
Credit: Jia Xie, Lerner lab, The Scripps Research Institute.

Their experiments under lab conditions show that these resistant cells can quickly replace diseased cells, potentially curing the disease in a person with HIV. “This protection would be long term,” said Jia Xie, senior staff scientist at TSRI and first author of the study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new TSRI technique offers a significant advantage over therapies where antibodies float freely in the bloodstream at a relatively low concentration. Instead, antibodies in the new study hang on to a cell’s surface, blocking HIV from accessing a crucial cell receptor  called CD4, and thereby preventing spreading of infection. With the antibodies monopolizing that site, the virus cannot enter the cell to spread infection. “This is really a form of cellular vaccination,” said study senior author Richard Lerner, M.D.

The scientists further confirmed that these tethered antibodies blocked HIV more effectively than free-floating, soluble antibodies in experiments led by study co-authors Devin Sok of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and TSRI Professor Dennis R. Burton.

Citation: Xie, Jia, Devin Sok, Nicholas C. Wu, Tianqing Zheng, Wei Zhang, Dennis R. Burton, and Richard A. Lerner. “Immunochemical engineering of cell surfaces to generate virus resistance.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017, 201702764.
Adapted from press release by The Scripps Research Institute.

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