‘Shock and kill’ technique can ’smoke out’ HIV

June 5th, 2009 - 6:13 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 5 (ANI): Scientists at the Italian Institute of Health have come up with a new technique that may one day rid HIV/AIDS patients of the virus, giving them a new lease of life.

Research leaders Dr. Enrico Garaci and Dr. Andrea Savarino say that with their so-called ’shock and kill’ technique, latent HIV genes can be ’smoked out’ of human cells.

Writing about their work in the open access journal Retrovirology, the researchers revealed that their team studied the so-called “barrier of latency” which has been the main obstacle to HIV eradication from the body.

They point out that cells harbouring a quiescent HIV genome are responsible for HIV persistence during therapy.

The purpose of their study was to devise a way to ’smoke out’ the virus in order to render the latently infected cells targetable by the immune system or artificial means.

“This can be achieved using inhibitors of histone deacetylases (HDACs), which are a class of enzymes that maintain HIV latency. However, their effects on HIV are evident only when used in toxic quantities,” they write.

During the study, the researhcers observed that at non-toxic quantities, class I HDAC inhibitors were able to induce the ‘awakening’ of a portion of cells within a latently infected cell population.

The researchers then repeated the experiment adding a drug inducing oxidative stress, buthionine sulfoximine (BSO). The results showed that BSO recruited cells non-responsive to the HDAC inhibitors into the responding cell population.

According to them, an important result was that the infected cells’ ‘awakening’ was followed by cell death, whereas the non-infected cells were left intact by the drug combination.

“I really hope this study may open new avenues to the development of weapons able to eliminate the HIV-infected cells from the body”, said Savarino. (ANI)

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