This Week in HIV Research: Enzyme May Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk, and New Insights Into an HIV Vaccine
This week, a new study identifies an enzyme that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by protease inhibitors. Another study discovers encouraging insights for a new HIV vaccine design. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!
An enzyme may reduce endothelial cell malfunction associated with taking protease inhibitors that can lead to cardiovascular disease in people living with HIV, according to a study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
"Endothelial cells make up the inner lining of blood vessels and are essential to vascular health," said lead author William Durante, Ph.D., according to the study press release. "When protease inhibitors are used to treat HIV, endothelial cell function is compromised. The cells' natural tendency to promote blood flow through the vessel is lost and they also become inflamed. These issues lead to plaque build-up within arteries and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease."
Following previous studies that had shown the enzyme HO-1 (heme oxygenase-1) helps protect against endothelial cell malfunction, the researchers added that enzyme to cultured human endothelial cells.
"Increasing the presence of HO-1 in our model before exposing it to a protease inhibitor allowed the medication to do its job without causing endothelial dysfunction," said Durante, according to the press release. "HO-1 shows great promise as a defender of endothelial cells in patients being treated for HIV."
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have identified precursor cells for one kind of broadly neutralizing antibody capable of controlling many strains of HIV, according to a study published in Science.
Some individuals living with HIV naturally produce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs); however, these antibodies can take years to produce, much longer than the virus takes to establish itself within a person's body. Much of recent vaccine research has focused on identifying different types of bNAbs and inducing the production of bNAbs in HIV-negative individuals.
Similar to previous vaccine methods, "an emerging [HIV] vaccine strategy involves immunizing people with a series of different engineered HIV proteins as immunogens to teach the immune system to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV," according to the study press release. The key to this strategy is for the first immunogen to trigger certain broadly neutralizing antibody precursor B cells, which can develop into fully formed B cells capable of producing broadly neutralizing antibodies.
The researchers discovered that precursor (or germline) cells for one kind of bNAb are present in most individuals, and they designed a strategy to target and activate these precursor cells.
"We found that almost everybody has these broadly neutralizing antibody precursors, and that a precisely engineered protein can bind to these cells that have potential to develop into HIV broadly neutralizing antibody-producing cells, even in the presence of competition from other immune cells," said lead author William Schief, Ph.D., according to the study press release.
With this discovery, the researchers plan on testing an engineered HIV protein known as the "eOD-GT8 60mer," and its ability to trigger these precursor cells, in a phase-1 study.