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UT pathologists believe they have pinpointed Achilles heel of HIV
Date:7/15/2008

isturbed immunological events in lupus patients can generate abzymes to the Achilles heel of HIV. The human genome has accumulated over millions of years of evolution a lot of viral fragments called endogenous retroviral sequences. These endogenous retroviral sequences are overproduced in people with lupus, and an immune response to such a sequence that resembles the Achilles heel can explain the production of abzymes in lupus. A small minority of HIV positive people also start producing the abzymes after decades of the infection. The immune system in some people can cope with HIV after all."

Carl Hanson, Ph.D., who heads the Retrovirus Diagnostic Section of the Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory of the California Department of Public Health, has shown that the abzymes neutralize infection of human blood cells by diverse strains of HIV from various parts of the world. Human blood cells are the only cells that HIV infects.

"This is an entirely new finding. It is a novel antibody that appears to be very effective in killing the HIV virus. The main question now is if this can be applied to developing vaccine and possibly used as a microbicide to prevent sexual transmission," said David C. Montefiori, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research & Development at Duke University Medical Center. The abzymes are now under development for HIV immunotherapy by infusion into blood. They could also be used to guard against sexual HIV transmission as topical vaginal or rectal formulations.

"HIV is an international priority because we have no defense against it," Paul said. "Left unchecked, it will likely evolve into even more virulent forms. We have learned a lot from this research about how to induce the production of the protective abzymes on demand. This is the Holy Grail of HIV research -- development of a preventative HIV vaccine."


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Contact: Robert Cahill
Robert.Cahill@uth.tmc.edu
713-500-3030
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Source:Eurekalert

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