New way to block HIV infection found

April 29th, 2008 - 12:41 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 29 (IANS) Researchers have been able to block HIV infection by disabling a human protein in key cells. The breakthrough will enable doctors to outwit the fast mutating HIV virus that has been the bane of treatment. Earlier, doctors either prescribed multi-drug regimens or switched drugs.

But such strategies are fraught with risks. They can increase the risk of toxic side effects, be difficult to follow and are not always successful.

Most of the drugs used against HIV that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), target the virus’s own proteins.

However, because HIV has a high rate of genetic mutation, they change quickly and lead to the emergence of drug-resistant viral strains.

In the new study, Pamela Schwartzberg of National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Andrew J. Henderson of Boston University and colleagues found that when they interfered with a protein called ITK, they inhibited HIV infection of key immune cells, called T cells.

ITK is a signalling protein that activates T cells as part of the body’s immune response.

“This new insight represents an important contribution to HIV research,” said NHGRI scientific director Eric D. Green. “Finding a cellular target that can be inhibited so as to block HIV validates a novel concept and is an exciting model for deriving potential new HIV therapies.”

These findings were published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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