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New research could provide more insight into developing a potential AIDs vaccine.

A research team comprised of scientists from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative and the Scripps Research Institute used next-generation sequencing to gain a better understanding of how certain humans can produce powerful, HIV-blocking antibodies.

They used a sample taken from an African volunteer taking part in a large epidemiological study who was infected with HIV subtype A. The volunteer, dubbed PC64, had developed HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) that targeted the vulnerable V2-apex site residing on the surface of the HIV virus, according to the announcement.

This specific form bnAb is one of the most effect neutralizers of HIV with a breadth allowing them to block the majority of these HIV strains.

Here’s how this experiment worked.

First, the team took a series of “snapshots” showing the interplay of PC64’s immune response with the volunteers infecting virus over a certain period of time. Next, they used these images to essentially retrace development of the bnAb all the way back to the initiation stage watching how certain viral changes promoted antibody breadth.

More experiments also highlighted evolutionary similarities between PC64’s virus and another candidate from a similar study who had the same type of bnAbs.

Ultimately, this process could yield a biological “template” that would help drug developers understand how to manufacture a potent vaccine for the condition.

“Uncovering the process by which neutralizing antibodies develop is critical to HIV vaccine design,” said lead author and senior research scientist at IAVI Elise Landais, in a statement. “A small fraction of people living with HIV can naturally produce exceptionally powerful and broad antibodies that could prevent HIV from infecting their immune cells, but not until several years post-infection – long after that protection can help them. But it is of enormous interest to vaccine researchers.”

Findings from this investigation were published in the journal Immunity.

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