Holy Cow Helping the Fight Against HIV

Currently there is no vaccine for HIV as the deadly virus mutates very easily. Scientists around the world have been working to develop a HIV Vaccine that can not only produce a strong immune system response in the effected human body, but also cause the immune system to make what are called “broadly neutralizing antibodies” (bNAbs) that are able to protect against many different strains of the virus. It is because estimates say that only around 20% of people infected with HIV can produce the naturally occurring broadly neutralizing antibodies. And even among people who can, the bNAbs production usually starts about two years after the infection occurs.

Picture about HIV Vaccine
Picture about HIV Vaccine

HIV Immunization in Cows

For the first time, researchers at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), Scripps Research Institute and Texas A&M University have shown that they were able to induce potent antibodies against HIV in Cows. Although cows do not get HIV, their immune systems produce unique antibodies against the infections. The new study was published in peer-reviewed medical journal Nature in late July 2017.

Picture about Holy Cow Helping the Fight Against HIV
Holy Cow Helping the Fight Against HIV

The researchers involved in the study injected four calves with HIV immunogens (BG505 SOSIP), i.e. proteins designed to evoke an immune response to the virus. They discovered that the cows developed bNAbs to HIV in their blood very rapidly – between time period of 1-2 months — which was well beyond what they anticipated. The researchers were also able to isolate antibodies from the calves and examine them closely, finding an antibody called NC-Cow 1 that was especially powerful in attacking HIV.

The study author Devin Sok explained that although the first broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) were discovered in the 1990s, scientists could not evoke them through immunization until they tested in cow. He also explained that they chose to test in cows as they have longer amino acid chains (the “building blocks” of proteins), unlike most animals. Even though the study was done in cows, scientists are hopeful the information can be valuable in research of a vaccine that can make the human body create the necessary antibodies to fight the HIV virus.


Could cows be the clue that leads to an HIV vaccine?

Prashanth Damarla

I write.

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