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One woman's uncommon ability to fight her HIV infection may provide new insights for developing a vaccine that triggers a special immune response against the viral disease, researchers said.
Scientists studied a 33-year old woman who had a rare combination of lupus, an autoimmune disease in which an overactive immune system attacks the body's cells and tissues, along with HIV, which damages and weakens the immune system.
The researchers found that in response to her HIV, the woman's immune system produced what are called "broadly neutralizing antibodies," which are effective in controlling HIV.
Very few people infected with HIV create these antibodies, because the immune system typically keeps their production in check. However, it has been suggested that impaired immune systems, such as those of people with lupus, would allow for the production of these antibodies, the researchers said.
"We found that the patient did indeed make these important antibodies, and by determining how this immune response occurred, we have enhanced our understanding of the process involved," said study researcher Dr. Barton Haynes, director of the Duke University Human Vaccine Institute.
Does lupus hold the key?
A few years ago, Haynes and his colleagues found that some broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV also attack the body's own tissues, suggesting the reason they are not routinely made is that the immune system sees them as harmful.
These antibodies looked a lot like those the research team had been studying in lupus patients who were not infected with HIV. "It was a clue that the antibody is coming from the same pool of immune cells that give rise to auto-reactive antibodies in autoimmune disease," Haynes said.
The broadly neutralizing antibodies produced by this patient have only been seen in the later stages of a small portion of chronically HIV-infected individuals, when it is already too late to prevent the effects of the virus, said Mattia Bonsignori, a faculty member of DHVI and the lead author of the study that discovered this.
This finding, however, provides evidence that inducing these antibodies could limit HIV infection in earlier stages.
The group’s finding that individuals with autoimmune diseases can limit the reproduction of the HIV virus suggests that overriding this control might be the key to engineering a vaccine, said Garnett Kelsoe, a professor of immunology and co-author of the study.
Although these findings further illustrate the path toward a future vaccine, Bonsignori stressed that this does not mean lupus itself prevents or cures HIV—rather, the effects of lupus simply set the stage for antibodies to develop that strengthen the immune system against HIV.
originally posted by: Cito
Gotta have the House reference.