HIV antibody therapy improves immune function

HIV antibody therapy improves immune function

By Dr. Liji Thomas, MD Feb 3 2020 A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine in February 2020 reports that the administration of neutralizing antibodies against HIV improve the recipient’s specific T cell responses against the virus. 3D illustration of T cells or cancer cells. Image Credit: Fusebulb / Shutterstock The background HIV has become a worldwide epidemic with almost 38 million people living with the disease all over the world. About 20% of these are unaware of their status and are not on treatment. Of the rest, antiretroviral therapy is the mainstay of HIV treatment. this regime is very effective at controlling the infection, reducing the viral load to undetectable and non-transmissible levels in the blood and other body tissues. However, it has to be continued lifelong because the virus hides in certain tissues in a dormant state, showing no sign of activity at all until the medication is stopped. At this point, typically, the patient shows almost immediate signs of a flare-up of viral activity. Recent research has shown the potential usefulness of an alternative to chemotherapy, by the use of immunotherapy where two antibodies designed to neutralize the virus are used to inhibit viral activity. Antibodies are not like drugs in that they not only inhibit the virus by latching on to certain key sites and preventing its normal activity, but also signal the immune system and activate it agains the intruders. Humoral and cellular immunity Traditionally, human immunity has been viewed in terms of non-adaptive and adaptive immunity. The first is also called innate immunity, and is set into action by the stimulus of any foreign protein. It is mediated by non-specific immune cells like the white blood cells called phagocytes (neutrophils and macrophages), and depends on the engulfing of the unrecognized or ‘stranger’ particles or cells by the immune cells. At the same time, the foreign antigens are ‘presented’ to the patrolling adaptive or specific immune cells to be recognized and their memory archived. This helps the body to mount an immune response directed specifically against any particle bearing this particular antigen in the future, and to do it much faster than the first time. The adaptive immune system consists of two parts, the humoral and the cell-mediated. Humoral or antibody-mediated immunity is carried out by the B lymphocytes, which are also part of the white blood cell community. These cells respond to circulating antigens. As the foreign antigen meets the B-lymphocyte, the latter is activated to change into a so-called plasma cell, which is in effect a factory to churn out specific antibodies. Some of these also become memory cells that carry the antigenic imprint for life, to quickly re-establish antibody production should the antigen ever appear in the body again. The antibodies produced by plasma cells bind rapidly to the antigens to do one of three things: ‘neutralize’ them, that is, prevent their binding to host cells to bring about specific target actions; kill the cell bearing the foreign antigen and thus contain the infection; or mark the infected cell for engulfment and destruction by phagocytes. Related Stories



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