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Cutting-Edge Approach Maps HIV’s Escape Routes

By January 31, 2019No Comments

Using a cutting-edge approach, scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center constructed an atlas of mutations HIV uses to escape broadly neutralizing antibodies, potent immune molecules that form our body’s first line of defense against the virus. The information could help guide researchers who are testing broadly neutralizing antibodies’ potential to prevent or treat HIV infection, as well as those working to develop more effective preventive vaccines.

Published today in the journal Immunity, the work shows that mutations that affect whether antibodies can block HIV occur in areas of the virus’ envelope protein that directly touch antibodies, and in areas beyond antibodies’ reach.

“This is a game-changer in saying, what’s important are the functional interactions [between antibodies and HIV], and they’re what’s going to help us understand how the virus can escape in a person if we do have a vaccine, or we do use antibodies as therapy,” said Hutch HIV researcher Dr. Julie Overbaugh, who participated in the research with Hutch colleagues Dr. Jesse Bloom and graduate student Adam Dingens. “And we weren’t getting that picture before — we were just getting pieces of it.”