Download episode. In this episode, we're talking antibodies - what they are and what they have to do with Vaccines. Also, we discuss efforts to use engineered antibodies to treat HIV.
First described by Paul Erlich in the early 20th century, antibodies can bind and neutralize viruses and toxins, or target bacteria for destruction. Antibodies are proteinst that grab their targets (called their "ligand"), through variable regions called "complimentarity determining regions" (CDR).
These CDRs are variable because B-cells re-arrange their genomic DNA, mixing and matching together so-called "V," "D," and "J" (for variable, diversity and joining) gene segments, yielding tens of thousands of different possible combinations.
Even more variability is possible because the junctions between these regions are not perfect, yielding mutations that may change the way that an antibody binds.
In episode 2, we talk about a paper that seems to indicate that a particular antibody V region has evolved to bind the stalk of the influenza hemaglutanin spike protein, and a different study that tries to use engineered broadly neutralizing antibodies to treat HIV infections.