An innovative approach in attacking the location where HIV attaches to cells has led researchers from the University of Texas to believe they have found the virus’ weak spot. The ‘Achilles heel’ is hidden within a protein that remains constant among all the mutating forms of the virus. To attack it, they have developed a special antibody with enzymatic activity referred to as an abzyme:
“[A group led by Sudhir Paul, Ph.D., pathology professor in the UT Medical School] has engineered antibodies with enzymatic activity, also known as abzymes, which can attack the Achilles heel of the virus in a precise way. “The abzymes recognize essentially all of the diverse HIV forms found across the world. This solves the problem of HIV changeability. The next step is to confirm our theory in human clinical trials,” Paul said. Unlike regular antibodies, abzymes degrade the virus permanently. A single abzyme molecule inactivates thousands of virus particles. Regular antibodies inactivate only one virus particle, and their anti-viral HIV effect is weaker. ‘The work of Dr. Paul’s group is highly innovative. They have identified antibodies that, instead of passively binding to the target molecule, are able to fragment it and destroy its function. Their recent work indicates that naturally occurring catalytic antibodies, particularly those of the IgA subtype, may be useful in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection,’ said Steven J. Norris, Ph.D., holder of the Robert Greer Professorship in the Biomedical Sciences and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the UT Medical School at Houston.”
More at Science Daily.
In related news, Canadian researchers have isolated two genes which may prevent or slow people from contracting HIV: “The genes were isolated by comparing the genetic profiles of people in their first year of HIV infection with those who managed to resist infection despite repeated exposure to the virus. The ‘good’ versions of the two genes were present in 12.2 percent of those who resisted infection compared with only 2.7 of patients in primary HIV infection.”