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Carrie Antlfinger / AP

Cows can produce a type of antibodies that have been shown in laboratories to stop 96% of HIV strains from infecting human cells, according to a new study in Nature.

Why it matters: Scientists have been trying to elicit these so-called "broadly neutralizing antibodies" (bNAbs) by immunization for decades in hopes of creating a vaccine that can provide protection from HIV. The bNAbs made by the cows, which don't contract HIV, can be studied to understand how they might potentially be elicited in humans via a vaccine. "The study … doesn't tell us how to make a vaccine for HIV in people, but it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response," John Mascola, director of vaccine research at NIAID, told STAT News.

Still TBD: We've "shown in a test tube that the antibodies can neutralize the virus," but not in a real human model, Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID at the NIH, told Axios. He added it would be "pretty easy" for scientists to "modify [the bNAbs] so that they'd be compatible to administer them to humans" for short-term prevention or treatment. It is unclear whether effective antibodies can be produced at a scale and rate that works for widespread distribution.

Can't humans develop these antibodies on their own? It's true that 10-20% of humans living with HIV naturally develop bNAbs — but not until years after getting infected, rendering most of them irrelevant since the virus would likely have already evolved, Fauci said.

  • The bovine advantage: Cows' immune systems seem to have powerful bNAbs to protect their multiple stomach chambers. Plus, the researchers noted that cows developed these antibodies in a short period of time (4 weeks v. 3-5 years in humans).

How they did it: The researchers infected four cows with a protein that mimics the outside of the HIV virus and the cows' immune systems rapidly created antibodies in response. They were then able to isolate the antibodies and, in the laboratory, they blocked multiple strains of HIV from infecting cells.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."