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Thursday, February 15th 2007

An Antibody To gp120

Have researchers actually shown how an antibody can lock up with HIV’s infamous gp120 protein?

Previous analysis of the blood of people who have been able to hold HIV at bay for long periods has revealed a rare of group of antibodies – including b12 – that seem to fight HIV with a degree of success.

The latest study has revealed the detailed structure of the complex, which is formed when b12 docks with gp120.

Until now this has proved impossible, because of the flexible nature of some of the chemical bonds involved.

But the NIAID team were able to stiffen up the key protein enough to capture a picture of the complex.

Since the gp120 protein is apparently crucial for the virus’ ability to enter the white cell it is very stable. What is meant is that it can’t mutate very much or it won’t function (and then the virus won’t function).

Everyone has heard the news that HIV has a high mutation rate, it is a major factor in inhibiting treatment and in inhibiting vaccine development.

A vaccine looks to prompt your own immune system to make antibodies to proteins on the outside of infectious agents (such as viruses). However, if those proteins are always mutating then those antibodies are useless. This is a major problem.

Everyone working on a vaccine knows that and is looking for more stable proteins on HIV to target, and everyone knows gp120. As well, these antibodies can’t be synthetically produced and then introduced into people…the gist is I’m not sure if seeing the structure of the Ab-gp120 connection actually contributes much to the development of a vaccine. But I clearly am talking out of my behind, so perhaps this is a big step forward.