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George Mason research team uncovers new factor in HIV infection
Date:8/24/2011

A George Mason University researcher team has revealed the specific process by which the HIV virus infects healthy T cellsa process previously unknown. The principal investigator, HIV researcher Yuntao Wu, says he hopes this breakthrough will start a new line on inquiry into how researchers can use this knowledge to create drugs that could limit or halt HIV infection.

Wu, a professor of molecular and microbiology at Mason, published these findings in an April 2011 edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, along with researchers Paul J. Vorster, Jia Guo, Alyson Yoder, Weifeng Wang, Yanfang Zheng, Dongyang Yu and Mark Spear from Mason's National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Molecular and Microbiology and Xuehua Xu from Georgetown University School of Medicine's Department of Oncology.

This paper outlined a new understanding on how T cellswhich are the target cells that the HIV virus infectsmove and migrate when hijacked by the virus.

"The discovery adds to our understanding of how HIV initiates the infection of human T cells, which leads to their eventual destruction and the development of AIDS," Wu says.

Researchers and doctors have known for some time that the HIV virus, rather than directly killing healthy T cells, actually hijacks them. This eventually leads to their destruction. So the virus essentially turns the infected T cells (also known as CD4T cells or helper T cells) into a factory for creating even more HIV. Learning more about how the cells are infected could be a key step toward figuring out how to stop infection altogether.

Wu's latest discovery builds upon his previous work, published in the journal Cell in 2008, which described the basic process of how HIV infects T cells. After discovering that cofilina protein used to cut through a cell's outer layer, or cytoskeletonis involved in HIV infection, Wu's new research provides the detailed framework for
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Contact: Leah Fogarty
lfogart1@gmu.edu
703-993-8781
George Mason University
Source:Eurekalert

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