Touch of gold revives discarded HIV drug

May 25th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 25 (IANS) Microscopic bits of gold added to a discarded HIV drug revives its ability to halt the virus from invading the immune system, according to a study. The drug compound, known as TAK-779, was found to bind to a specific location on human T-cells that blocks the HIV virus’ entry into the immune system.

Unfortunately, the part of the drug molecule that ensured binding caused side effects. When that portion - an ammonium salt - was removed, the drug lost its binding ability.

Then researchers turned to gold for a solution.

Since the element is non-reactive in the human body, it would be the perfect “scaffold” to attach molecules of the drug, in the absence of the ammonium salt, holding the drug molecules together and concentrating their effect.

“The idea is that by attaching these individual molecules of the drug with a weak binding ability to the gold nanoparticle, you can magnify their ability to bind,” said Christian Melander of North Carolina State University.

The researchers’ theory proved correct. They started with a modified version of TAK-779, which didn’t include the harmful ammonium salt.

After testing, they found that attaching 12 molecules of the modified drug (SDC-1721) to one gold nanoparticle restored the drug’s ability to prevent HIV infection in primary cultured patient cells.

“We’ve discovered a non-harmful way to improve the strength and efficacy of an important drug,” Melander said. “There’s no reason to think that this same process can’t be used with similar effect on other existing drugs.”

The findings of the study appear online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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