Okay, for real, you guys– unless I am on here screaming “OMFG WE CURED AIDS” “OMFG WE HAVE AN HIV VACCINE AHHHH” etc, promise me you all wont believe anything you read via AP or USATODAY or any of that crap?
There is a neat paper out in Science (not available even to normal Science subscribers, only *xpress* members *rolleyes*) on a couple of new, neat HIV-1 antibodies.
Now, this paper contains a lot of hard work. I think some of the things they did are weird (“first we did A, then we did B”, and I dont see the logic that led them from A to B, weird reagent choices, this is a fishing expedition– there is no reason they should get anything viable at the end of all this hard work, so I have no idea how they got this study funded, nor would I want it to by my thesis project, hell I wouldnt even agree to do this project, BUT its clearly a hellovalot of hard work), but thats something for me to talk to the authors about.
Long story short– In this one patient described in this paper, they found two antibodies that can neutralize a whole bunch of different kinds of HIV-1. Like, a TON of different kinds of HIV-1. Every subtype, a few recombinants, awesome! Plus, they recognize envelope trimers, not monomers, so they really are neat new reagents, if they ever make them available to anyone else. Hurray.
These two antibodies do NOT ‘prevent HIV-1 from causing severe AIDS‘. While its true the antibodies were discovered in someone not progressing to AIDS very quickly, there is *zero* science in this paper to support that statement. That claim is *not* what they were exploring in this paper. If this kind of antibody is so critical for slow disease progression, we would have found it by now, in many other patients.
These two antibodies target an exposed, conserved region of envelope. This does NOT mean that this region is a ‘potential new Achilles heel in the virus’s defences‘. Lets say you and I both get Swine Flu this year. You and I will make totally different antibodies to Swine Flu. Say you and I get the Swine Flu vaccination this year. You and I will make totally different antibodies to the Swine Flu vaccine. I cant *force* your body to make a particular antibody. Clearly, HIV-1 cant either– if antibodies like the two that were just found are so great, so exposed, so conserved… why doesnt everyone have them? Why would you expect everyone to make them from a vaccine? The only way to force you and I to make the same antibody, is to take B-cells from you/me, do gene therapy, and put them back into you/me and hope they survive. We have *had* this ‘option’ against HIV-1 for a long time. These arent the first broadly neutralizing antibodies. And gene therapy is still a non-viable ‘solution’ to HIV/AIDS.
These antibodies might help us design better vaccines, somehow, in the future. Maybe.
The ‘best’ thing I can say about these antibodies disease-wise, at this time, is that theoretically they would be viable anti-HIV-1 therapies. Like PRO 140, which is an antibody that sticks to CCR5, effectively making a person ‘delta CCR5‘, even if they arent genetically. Commercial antibodies as a therapy. Get viral loads down. Still yay!
But these new antibodies arent a cure for AIDS, nor are they currently helpful for vaccines.
Just more cool HIV-1 research getting completely blown out of proportion by the media.