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A better understanding of how HIV-1 evades the immune system

The type of virus used as a model to study the efficacy of non-neutralizing antibodies against the virus responsible for AIDS has a crucial role to play, according to a new study led by Andrés Finzi, Université de Montréal professor and researcher at the CHUM Research Centre.

Published in Cell Reports, the study shows for the first time in humanized mice that the expression of the viral protein Vpu is essential in allowing infected cells to evade the elimination mechanism known as antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC).

Among other things, this mechanism, well documented in the scientific literature, is used by non-neutralizing antibodies to get rid of cells infected by the virus.

To develop a vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV-1, many laboratories study the generation of this same category of antibodies to prevent infection.

Today, millions of people live with HIV-1 and have non-neutralizing antibodies. Still, the disease has yet to be eradicated. If the antibodies are so effective, why don’t they appear to work?

This conundrum was all it took to spark the curiosity of UdeM doctoral student Jérémie Prévost, the first author of the study and a team member under Finzi, the study’s lead author and a Canada Research Chair in Retroviral Entry.

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