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Researchers Exploring New Ways To Prevent The Spread Of Devastating Diseases

Update Date: Sep 19, 2014 10:16 AM EDT

Researchers have developed a method that could provide body with step-by-step instructions for producing specific antibodies that have been shown to neutralize a particular disease. 

The newly devised method, called vectored immunoprophylaxis, or VIP has been so successful that it has since been applied to a number of other infectious diseases including influenza, malaria and hepatitis C, according to press release. 

"It is enormously gratifying to us that this technique can have potentially widespread use for the most difficult diseases that are faced particularly by the less developed world," said Baltimore, president emeritus and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech, in the press release.

The method relies on prior identification of one or more antibodies that are able to prevent infection in laboratory tests by a wide range of isolated samples of a particular pathogen. Eventually, researchers can incorporate the genes that encode those antibodies into an adeno-associated virus - a small harmless virus that has been useful in gene therapy trials. 

In 2011, researchers had reported the use of a technique that delivered antibodies which effectively protected mice from HIV infection. 

"We expected that at some dose, the antibodies would fail to protect the mice, but it never did-even when we gave mice 100 times more HIV than would be needed to infect seven out of eight mice," said Alejandro Balazs, lead author of the study published in Nature, now at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. "All of the exposures in this work were significantly larger than a human being would be likely to encounter."

The study was conducted by California Institute of Technology. 

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