Fresh optimism has been injected in HIV/AIDS research

Kudos to Gilead Sciences, Inc.!!

A Durban based scientist has been awarded over two and a half million dollars to fund HIV/AIDS research.

Early intervention with new treatment enables durable control of HIV-like virus in monkeys

There are more than 25 drugs to control HIV, yet the virus remains one of the world’s biggest health problems. One of the many challenges with existing therapies is that a dormant version of the virus is always lurking in the background, ready to attack the immune system as soon as treatment is interrupted.

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From Rockefeller University:

Now, new research from The Rockefeller University and the National Institutes of Health suggests that treatment with two anti-HIV antibodies immediately after infection enables the immune system to effectively control the virus, preventing its return for an extended period.

“This form of therapy can induce potent immunity to HIV, allowing the host to control the infection,” says Michel Nussenzweig, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “It works by taking advantage of the immune system’s natural defenses, similar to what happens in some forms of cancer immunotherapy.”

The research was conducted in macaque monkeys, using a model of HIV infection called simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). Although this model does not precisely mimic human HIV infection, the findings suggest that immunotherapy should be explored as a way of controlling the virus and boosting an immune response that might be capable of controlling the infection in people. The study publishes on March 13 in Nature.

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Viral suppression: Working in a monkey model of HIV, scientists discovered that a dual-antibody therapy can boost the immune system to control the infection and prevent the virus from returning.
Credit: Image courtesy of Rockefeller University

Long-term control

The two drugs used in the study, 3BNC117 and 10-1074, belong to a class of molecules called broadly neutralizing antibodies. They were discovered by the Nussenzweig laboratory in studies of “elite controllers,” people whose immune systems have a rare ability to fight off the virus. Each antibody binds to a different site of the virus, preventing its damaging effects from different angles.

13 monkeys were inoculated with the SHIV virus, and then given three intravenous infusions of the two antibodies over a two-week period. The treatment suppressed the virus to levels near or below the limit of detection, and its effect lasted for as long as six months. After the antibodies had cleared out of the monkeys’ bodies, the virus rebounded in all but one animal.

But then, 5 to 22 months later, something remarkable happened: six of the monkeys spontaneously regained control of the virus. Their virus levels once again plummeted to undetectable levels and remained suppressed for another 5 to 13 months.

These six monkeys were also able to maintain healthy levels of key immune cells after receiving the antibody infusions.

In addition, four other monkeys that did not regain complete control of the virus nevertheless showed promising responses to the treatment: they maintained extremely low viral loads and healthy levels of key immune cells for two to three years after infection. In total, 10 of the 13 monkeys benefitted from antibody immunotherapy.

Feasibility in humans

Nussenzweig and colleagues also investigated what aspect of the immune system was helping the monkeys ward off the virus’s return. They gave the six controller monkeys an antibody that targets and depletes a type of immune cell called cytotoxic T cells. Infusion of this antibody immediately increased the amount of SHIV in the monkeys’ blood and decreased cytotoxic T cell levels, indicating that these cells play a key role in preventing SHIV replication after therapeutic antibody infusion.

The researchers are now repeating this experiment after a longer exposure to the virus, waiting two to six weeks after SHIV infection before administering the therapeutic antibody infusions. This is how long it usually takes for an HIV-infected person to be diagnosed and able to receive treatment.

Clinical trials testing the antibody combination in humans are also underway at The Rockefeller University Hospital.

Read article here.

If you have been diagnosed with HIV Group O, HIV Subtype C,D,F,G,H,J,K, or HIV-2, you might be eligible to donate plasma and earn $1200 or more. Visit www.plasmamedpatients.com for more info or call/text 561-962-5065.

Research will see if antibodies can more selectively target & kill HIV-infected cells

Hope in antibodies.

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by Emily Newman

Early in January, Gilead Sciences announced an astounding $22 million HIV cure grants program benefitting 12 research teams around the world. The projects supported range in scope from basic science research to ethical and community-based social science research.

Galit Alter, PhD, a researcher at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and her team were one recipient of Gilead’s funding. Over the next three years, they will be developing a portfolio of broadly functional antibodies and testing them to see if they’re able to help eradicate cells that are latently infected with HIV from the body. Alter spoke with BETA to answer some questions about her research—and explain why she’s hopeful that an antibody-based cure therapy may prove to be both effective and realistic.

Plasma cell B lymphocyte producing antibodies isolated on white

Read article here.

If you have been diagnosed with HIV Group O, HIV Subtype C,D,F,G,H,J,K, or HIV-2, you might be eligible to donate plasma and earn $1200 or more. Visit www.plasmamedpatients.com for more info or call/text 561-962-5065.

What, Me Donate Plasma for Research?

The reasons are fairly obvious and straightforward. Research undertaken in the past by committed and forward-thinking people has given us a standard of living and life expectancies that would have been unimaginable not that long ago. It’s easy to take all of this for granted. Treatments for diseases that were deadly and intractable didn’t come out of a vacuum. Every one of us is healthier, happier, and some of us are actually still alive, solely because some nameless people made a commitment to research.

Participation in research studies comes in a few broad categories. Some studies seek only patient records in order to establish trends and extract data on the relative successes and failures of various treatment modalities. Other studies administer investigational drugs to patients in double-blind trials as part of the final phases of their approval. At Plasma MedResearch, LLC, we recruit patients for a third type of study. Our participants donate biospecimens in the form of plasma or blood samples along with various other body tissues and fluids as research requirements dictate. These patients are then compensated for their donation, time and travel, depending on the study and the specimen given.

Why are people reluctant to get involved? There are many reasons ranging from logistics, family/work responsibilities, impaired health, lack of mobility, and privacy concerns. These are all very valid reasons to take a pass on participating. In this day and age people are simply not comfortable having their personal information “out there”. This is understandable. Anyone who works with Plasma MedResearch, LLC, can rest assured that their personal information is protected. We meet and exceed all existing HIPAA and regulatory requirements for the safeguarding of personal information. Our commitment to our donors’ privacy cannot overstated.

We serve biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical companies, and Universities around the world. Our capabilities include a wide range of disease-state biospecimens, from Arthritis to Zika. People who consider donating often ask to know what research institution will be using their specimen and the exact nature of the study. Although this is a great question, it is not possible to answer. Regulations require a strict de-linking between donor and researcher. The most important part of this that researchers cannot know any identifying information about the person who provided the specimen. This is a critical protection for the donor. But, as a consequence, the donor cannot be privy to information about the people and company(ies) doing the actual research.

The selfless act of donating a specimen to a particular research study will have a positive ripple effect down through the generations, improving the quality of life on planet Earth.