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New Proteins That Help HIV Grow Identified

Finding could lead to treatments for when antiviral drugs fail

THURSDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Harvard researchers have identified almost 300 human proteins that help HIV propagate, creating hope for new treatments to combat the virus that causes AIDS.

Using a technique called RNA interference to screen thousands of genes, the team identified 273 human proteins, according to the study published online Jan. 10 in Science Express. These proteins could provide a way to help people with HIV when the virus develops resistance to current antiviral drugs.

"Antiviral drugs are currently doing a good job of keeping people alive, but these therapeutics all suffer from the same problem, which is that you can get resistance, so we decided to take a different approach centered on the human proteins exploited by the virus. The virus would not be able to mutate to overcome drugs that interact with these proteins," senior author Stephen Elledge, a professor in Harvard Medical School's department of genetics, said in a prepared statement.

The expanded list of proteins gives future researchers "a hypothesis generation machine," he said.

"Scientists can look at the list, predict why HIV needs a particular protein, and then test their hypothesis," Elledge explained.

He noted that immune cells -- which are targeted by HIV -- contain high concentrations of many of the 273 proteins.

"We're closing in on a systems level understanding of HIV, which opens new therapeutic avenues. We might be able to tweak various parts of the system to disrupt (HIV) propagation without making our own cells sick," Elledge said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about HIV/AIDS.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Harvard Medical School, news release, Jan. 10, 2008

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