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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 6 - 26 mar 2014
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Towards future vaccinations against Hiv

Researchers from the University of Granada have discovered, for the first time, an allosteric interaction between the protein gp41, which forms part of the sheath of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (Hiv) and the antibody 2F5 (Fab), a strong virus neutralizer. This important scientific breakthrough, reported in 'The Journal of Biological Chemistry', could help researches to understand the mechanisms behind generating immune responses and help towards the design of future vaccines against the Hiv virus. Although modern antiretroviral therapies have improved enormously the treatment of Aids, their high cost means that they do not reach the more disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, these treatments do not completely eliminate Hiv, since it remains dormant, with the danger of resurging if the patient stops the medication.

But, after several decades of research, there is still no effective vaccine. The main reason is that Hiv manages to 'trick' our immune system, hiding in it via a wide variability of its proteins, or confusing it through immune responses that turn out to be ineffective in preventing the infection.

This study falls within the framework of a line of research into new therapeutical immunization techniques that attempt to induce neutralizing antibodies similar to those found, in low levels, in Hiv-infected patients. One of these antibodies, known as 2F5 Fab, is being studied intensively, given its strong neutralizing potential.

The main author of this research, University of Granada Physical Chemistry lecturer, Francisco Conejero Lara, points out that “one of the main aims of current research into Hiv vaccines consists of inducing neutralizing antibodies similar to 2F5 via immunization using an appropriate vaccine. To do this, studies into how 2F5 recognizes its epitope in gp41 are fundamental, since they can provide the way to designing effective vaccines”.

To this end, a wide-spreading European collaboration consortium, called 'Euroneut-41', financed by the 7th Eu Framework Programme, is attempting to design and develop vaccines to combat Hiv. The consortium is formed by 16 European institutions, including companies, universities, research institutes and hospitals. Their ultimate aim is to develop possible vaccines against Hiv.

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