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The adeno-associated virus, or AAV, infects about 90 percent of humans. Our immune system is adept at dealing with it. And because antibodies attack and neutralize the virus so readily, it's rendered useless for delivering drugs.
The researchers created mutant viruses by altering their DNA using proven techniques. Then they exposed the mutants to blood serum from rabbits immunized against AAV—the serum contained many types of antibodies to AAV. Only the mutant viruses that were able to evade the antibodies survived. The process was repeated with the survivors.
The emerging mutants survived after being injected into mice that had a thousand times the level of antibodies needed to destroy the wild AAV.