Antibodies are exciting. And yes, I mean the y-shaped protein thing you learned about in biology class. Maybe antibodies themselves aren’t super exciting, but the work researchers are doing with these proteins to fight off viruses is thrilling and important. Before we continue, let’s take a quick refresher and answer the questions: what the heck is an antibody and why are they important?
Antibodies are proteins produced by our body in response to antigens, which we should think of as bad foreign molecules, like bacteria and viruses. One way our immune system attacks foreign substances in the body is by making many antibodies that target and stick to these specific antigens. In essence, they are one of our bodies most important mechanisms for fighting bad foreign invaders.

Since the 1980’s, antibodies have been used in various research areas to help develop treatments. Researchers use antibodies by designing them to target specific antigens, such as the ones found in cancer or diabetes. The researcher will then make copies of that antibody in a lab and use it to help treat various types of diseases.

Newly Engineered Antibody vs HIV

Recently, scientists engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and was shown to prevent infections in primates. The antibody was engineered to attack three critical parts of the virus, making it harder for HIV to resist its effects. Human trials will begin at the end of 2018 to see if the results are as rewarding with us as they were with primates.

This work was a collaboration between the US National Institutes of Health and researchers from the pharmaceutical company Sanofil.
In response to the results, the International Aids society said it was an “exciting breakthrough.” One of the most difficult characteristics of HIV is its incredible ability to mutate and adapt. This make it extremely difficult for our body to attack and develop defenses against. This is why this new breakthrough is so significant. As Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, the president of the International Aids Society, told the BBC: “This paper reports an exciting breakthrough. These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date. It’s early days yet, as a scientist I look forward to seeing the first trials get off the ground in 2018.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this of the breakthrough:

“Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defenses of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention.”

Author's Bio: 

Patrick is a digital marketer and developer. As a digital native, he grew up on and developed a deep appreciation for computers, the internet, and their impact on the world. Most of his days are spent in front of a computer, whether he's marketing at work or programming shortly after.
In his free time he enjoys writing about exciting developments in the world, reading, and playing chess.
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