Scientists ‘redesign’ antibodies to control HIV

Thanks to some redesigning, an antibody now has more power and can neutralize more strains of HIV virus, than any other recognised natural antibody. With the help of a computer program called “Rosetta,” researchers at the Vanderbilt University have “redesigned” the antibody, and the findings suggest that they may speed up the search for an effective therapy or vaccine for a virus that has so far eluded all attempts to eradicate it.

James Crowe Jr., M.D., who led the work, said that there’s a consensus (in the HIV field) that the vaccine that works is going to be a designed one. Vanderbilt researchers began with a “parent” antibody isolated from the blood of an HIV-infected person that was a strong “neutralizer” of HIV in laboratory tests. By changing a single amino acid, they made it four times more potent, four times stronger and it also started killing even more HIV strains than the parent antibody, said Crowe.

The original, isolated antibody is now being produced in great quantities from a single clone of immune cells, and thus is a “monoclonal” antibody. It currently is being tested in clinical trials. Crowe said the redesigned antibody could be added to the study as a second-generation version.

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