A University at Buffalo researcher has been awarded a $1.9 million, five-year federal grant to study the fraction of the world’s population – about 1 percent – that can be infected with the virus that causes AIDS but not develop the disease.
Called “long-term nonprogressors,” these people have been studied extensively, but the mechanism of their survival remains a mystery, according to Dr. Mark D. Hicar, research assistant professor in pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and the principal investigator of the grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Hicar, also a pediatric infectious disease physician at Women and Children’s Hospital, has found previous uncharacterized targets for antibodies on the surface of the virus. It’s possible that antibodies similar to those in his collection are key to how someone becomes a long-term nonprogressor.
Most antibodies help shuttle viruses to other immune cells that gobble them up. The antibodies in Hicar’s collection don’t seem to function like normal antibodies that neutralize viruses.