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Scientists develop molecule to fight HIV

The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly reduce the chance of transmission from person to person

Press Trust of India 

Photo: AP/PTI
Representational image. Photo: AP/PTI

Scientists have developed a novel “kick and kill” technique against that uses a molecule to awaken dormant and then knocks them out.

Current anti-are highly effective at making undetectable and allowing people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives, said researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US.

The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly reduce the chance of transmission from person to person. However, the medications do not actually rid the body of the virus, which has the ability to elude medications by lying dormant in cells called CD4+ T cells, which signal another type of T cell, the CD8, to destroy HIV-infected cells. 

When a person with stops treatment, the virus emerges and replicates in the body, weakening the immune system and raising the likelihood of opportunistic infections or cancers that can sicken or kill the patient.

Researchers have been looking for ways to eliminate the “reservoirs” where the virus hides, and they may have now developed a solution - a technique called “kick and kill”.

Their approach involves sending an agent to “wake up” the dormant virus, which causes it to begin replicating so that either the immune system or the virus itself would kill the cell harbouring

Destroying the reservoir cells could rid some or all of the virus from people who are infected. Although the scientists’ approach has not been tested in humans yet, a synthetic molecule they developed has been effective at kicking and killing in lab animals.

“The latent reservoir is very stable and can reactivate virus replication if a patient stops taking for any reason,” said Matthew Marsden, an assistant professor at UCLA.

“Our study suggests that there may be means of activating latent virus in the body while the patient is on to prevent the virus from spreading, and that this may eliminate at least some of the latent reservoir,” said Marsden, lead author of the study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

The researchers gave to mice that had been infected with HIV, and then administered a synthetic compound called SUW133, which was developed at Stanford University in the US, to activate the mice’s dormant

Up to 25 per cent of the previously dormant cells that began expressing died within 24 hours of activation.

With further development, the technique could lower the viral reservoir enough for people with to be able to discontinue their anti-viral therapy, Marsden said.

SUW133 is based on bryostatin 1, a natural compound extracted from a marine animal called Bugula neritina. The research determined that the new compound is less toxic than the naturally occurring version.

First Published: Sat, October 07 2017. 22:24 IST
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