Scientists Identified an Antibody Called N6 that Neutralizes 98% of HIV Strains
There’s exciting news in the medical community this week as researchers announced the identification of an antibody that neutralizes 98% of HIV strains.
That antibody is called N6. In testing, the antibody was consistently able to prevent HIV from attaching itself to a host’s immune cells and controlling them – which is the vulnerability that makes HIV-positive people vulnerable to AIDS.
The antibody, interestingly enough, was discovered after it was produced by an HIV positive patient. It even appears to neutralize strains that are resistant to other antibodies of the same class.
Scientists have previously struggled with finding an antibody that blocks a wide range of strains. HIV rapidly adapts to your body’s changing immune system conditions – a mechanism that has blocked scientists’ previous research efforts.
The research was led by members of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Here are some of the important findings from that research:
-Researchers found that the antibody, called N6, was able to maintain its ability to recognize the HIV virus consistently in testing, even when the virus morphed and broke away from the antibody
-The antibody can also be 10 times more powerful than VRC01, an antibody in the same class as N6. That antibody recently progressed to phase II clinical trials in human patients after it was discovered to safeguard monkeys against HIV over a six month period.
-VRC01 stopped 90% of HIV strains from attacking cells in human testing. This new strain, N6, was exposed to 181 different HIV strains and destroyed 98% of those strains. The most significant results came against 20 highly-resistant strains, where N6 destroyed 16 of 20 strains that were previously resistant to antibodies in the same class.
How Does N6 Work?
N6 works so effectively because it doesn’t fall for the “tricks” HIV pulls inside your body. When HIV changes and adapts to your body’s immune system, the N6 antibody isn’t fooled. It continues to track the virus.
Why is it so effective at avoiding the so-called “shape shifting defenses” of HIV? Researchers found that N6 relies less on binding with parts of the virus that are prone to changing – known as the V5 region – and relies more on parts that change very little across different strains.
When N6 latches onto these more consistent parts of the virus, it prevents HIV from attaching itself to your body’s immune cells and attacking them – which is the primary reason why those with HIV are so vulnerable to AIDS.
Ultimately, researchers are describing this as:
“an important new lead for the development of strategies to prevent and treat HIV infection”
However, it’s important to remember that the results have only been demonstrated in the lab so far – so until we see the same results in human trials, you should continue to be cautiously optimistic.