For decades, researchers have been trying — unsuccessfully — to develop a vaccine that spurs the body to attack HIV. But immunologist Michael Farzan of the Scripps Research Institute in Florida published a Nature paper in March that described a way to neutralize the virus itself.
Farzan and his team discovered in their
work with monkeys that HIV can’t invade
cells if those cells’ two surface receptors are
blocked — like a keyhole jammed with gum.
Past approaches that tried to neutralize HIV
used antibodies that blocked only one receptor
at a time. But Farzan and colleagues created a
protein inhibitor that mimics an antibody and
can block both receptors at the same time. To
slip in now, the virus must evolve in ways that
will make it less dangerous, Farzan says.