A new study conducted by a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health have recently found that the presence of the protein alpha-4 beta-7 integrin on the surface of HIV along with its monkey equivalent, which is the simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, may help explain why an antibody protected monkeys from SIV in previous experiments. Way back in October 2016, researchers have reported that they were able to achieve a sustained SIV remission in monkeys using a monkey antibody that is similar to the human drug vedolizumab, a type of drug that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Although it was previously unclear what type of mechanism is involved, a new report presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle provides clues.
Protein Alpha-4 Beta-7 Integrin And Its Properties
According to reports revealed by Science Daily, scientists have long noted that alpha-4 beta-7 integrin is a gut-homing receptor present at high levels on the immune-system cells that HIV and SIV preferentially infect. In fact, in the new study, it was found that maturing HIV and SIV particles acquire alpha-4 beta-7 as they emerge from an infected cell, which, in turn, has presented researchers with a new target for HIV prevention and treatment. Additionally, experts said that the findings have also paved the way for better understanding of how HIV disease develops.
Furthermore, in one of his statements reported by Specialty Pharmacy Times, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who also happens to be the study's co-author has said that the team initially expected the antibody to attach the alpha-4 beta-7 on immune cells and to consequently reduce their movement to the gut, where HIV and SIV typical decimate the cells early in infection. However, the findings obtained have shown that anti-alpha-4 beta-7 antibody binds not only to cells but also to HIV and SIV. Thus, experts believe that the process likely explains at least in part of the previous observation that SIV-infected monkeys treated with antibody to alpha-4 beta-7 and that an antiretroviral therapy controlled the virus very effectively long after all treatment ended.
Future Plans For HIV Treatment
Meanwhile, the team reveals that their next step is to allegedly conduct a study designed to prove that the presence of alpha-4 beta-7 on SIV explains the protective effect of the alpha-4 beta-7 antibody that was observed in the earlier monkey studies. As of the press time, the experts have highly emphasized that the current study findings basically suggest that the protein is crucial to the initial phase of infection, which has a major influence on the subsequent development of HIV.