This new factor is called LIM domain kinase, or LIMK. The researchers discovered that LIMK triggers a cell to move, almost acting like a propeller. This cell movement is essential for HIV infection. This discovery marks the first time that a research team has uncovered the involvement of LIMK in HIV infection.
Building upon these results, the researchers then used a drug to trigger similar LIMK activation and found that it increased infection of T cells. Of course, the researchers ultimately want to decrease the infection of T cellsso they worked backwards and found something very promising.
"When we engineered the cell to inhibit LIMK activity, the cell became relatively resistant to HIV infection," says Wu. In other words, the researchers engineered human T cells that were not easily infected by HIV. This finding suggests that, in the future, drugs could be developed based on LIMK inhibition.
And while there are currently no medical drugs available to inhibit LIMK, Wu hopes this is a developing area in potential new therapeutic targets. One advantage of using this kind of therapy over the current medication available to those with HIV is that it's more difficult for the HIV virus to generate resistance to treatment, Wu explains.
Wu's team continues its work on decoding this complicated process, and he stresses that there is still much to be done.
"These findings are certainly exciting, and are an emerging research field that we are proud to have established three years ago with the publication of our Cell paper," he says. "We will continue to study the molecular details and to use those discoveries to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic tools to monitor and treat HIV-mediated CD4 T cell dysfunction and depletion."
|Contact: Leah Fogarty|
George Mason University