Major breakthrough in HIV vaccine as scientists reorganize immune cells for possible cure

A new vaccine approach using genetically engineered immune cells from a patient’s body has created a long-lasting and long-lasting defense against HIV infection, generating new hope not only for a vaccine, but also a cure.

In experiments on mice, a team from Scripps Research induced largely neutralizing antibodies, or bnAbs, capable of preventing HIV infection.

They did this by reprogramming genes in B cells of the immune system using the CRISPR technique to produce anti-HIV antibodies of the type found in rare HIV patients.

This new study shows that the redesigned B cells can not only multiply in response to vaccination, but mature in both memory and plasma cells, combining to produce an effective and long-lasting defense against infection.

“This is the first time that it has been shown that the modified B cells can create a sustainable engineered antibody response in a relevant animal model”, says lead researcher James Voss, Ph.D., of Scripps Research.

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The researchers hope that one day this new vaccine approach could not only prevent new HIV infections, but also cure existing HIV / AIDS cases, of which there were at least 38 million in 2019.

To start the process in humans would only require a blood sample, but the approach requires custom genes based on a patient’s own immune cells, which complicates matters and requires more time, resources and expertise, which are difficult to scale.

The team is now working to improve and simplify the process, with the goal of reducing costs while increasing accessibility once they get the necessary regulatory approval in the future.

“People think cell therapy is very expensive,” Dit Voss. “We are working a lot to try to make the technology affordable as a preventive HIV vaccine or a working remedy that would replace daily antiviral treatment.”

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