AIDS Virus Achillies Heel Discovered
Scientists at the US NIH vaccine research centre may have uncovered HIV's weak spot, offering the promise of a target for a vaccine. Patients with HIV make heaps of antibodies against the virus but they don't seem to neutralise it. Now, in this week's Nature, Peter Kwong has dissected the workings of one rare antibody, B12, which can neutralise the infection. It turns out that the virus alters the shape of the docking station it uses to lock onto cells as it infects, preventing most antibodies from working. Making a stabilised artificial version of this docking protein, in the altered shape, might therefore drive the immune system to produce antibodies capable of blocking the effect.