Sep. 26, 2000 Researchers believe they have found a promising new battleground for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS: a portion of the virus that is unaffected by its myriad mutations. The findings are described in the September 26 issue of Biochemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Finding a spot unaffected by the billions of variations the virus can generate represents a great opportunity for preventing the virus's ability to spread, according to Virendranath Pandey, who led the research team at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey. The researchers have also created a way - in test tube studies - to block the reactions that allow the virus to reproduce itself.
Located in the center of a U-shaped loop inside HIV-affected cells, the site interacts with a protein necessary for the spread of the virus, Pandey explained. If the interaction can be prevented, the virus will not have a chance to spread or develop resistance to drugs, he said.
"The implications of these findings are that inhibition of this vital process will block the replication of the virus, thereby arresting the disease," Pandey said. "These results suggest that [this treatment] may be a potentially attractive therapy."
The researchers bonded a synthetic form of DNA - called PNA [polyamide nucleic acid] - to the virus's genetic structure. This prevented a protein called "Tat" from activating the process that spreads the virus from cell to cell. If the Tat protein is blocked, the virus cannot replicate itself.
PNA can be tailored specifically to fight HIV and is resistant to many of the body's defenses to break it down, according to Pandey. "This approach has great promise," he said. "I am very optimistic that if we are able to find a delivery system for this treatment, this approach may be useful to patients suffering from HIV infection."
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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