Scientists have turned to a seemingly unlikely source to develop the HIV vaccine: cows. A new study shows that the quick immune system of bovines could hold an important key to creating an HIV vaccine for humans.
A new study supported by the National Institutes of Health made a big step towards developing what could be a viable HIV vaccine, after an experiment with cows, Tech Times reports. The researchers found that unlike humans, cows have the ability to create HIV neutralizing antibodies on their own faster than humans can.
The scientists basically injected four calves with proteins that were made to imitate the ones present on the surface of the HIV virus, in order to see what their immune response would be.
In 35 to 50 days, the calves all developed bNAbs.
Humans with HIV, on the other hand, develop BNAbs around two years after infection, and only 10-20% do so. In addition, one of the cows was able to neutralize some 20% of the HIV strain in just 42 days, while another cow was able to neutralize a surprising 96% of the strain in 381 days.
The researchers isolated the antibodies the calves had developed, and found that they contained a potent antibody that binds to an area the HIV virus uses to infect healthy cells. Also, these antibodies that longer loops of HCDR3 that develop faster.
Longer HCDR3 regions are able to pierce through the molecules on the surface of HIV, reaching the furthest areas and eventually neutralizing the virus. In people these longer HCDR3 regions have only been observed in those who have lived with HIV for a long time.
But while the study shows promise, there are still many challenges to overcome until an effective HIV vaccine can be created. Cows are greatly different from humans, and HIV is a human virus, so it’s difficult to predict how the results might happen when applied to a human’s immune system.
The study was published in the journal Nature.