But synthetic prostratin and DPP, which now can be readily made in the lab, changes that equation.
"We have now minimized, if not eliminated, the issue of availability of prostratin and DPP," Wender said. "But equally, if not more importantly, we have opened access to other compounds that might be similar in structure but superior in function."
Previous work done in mice by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles indicates that prostratin, used in combination with interleukin-7, an immune system stimulator made in bone marrow, managed to flush out and eliminate approximately 80 percent of the dormant virus. But with HIV, 80-percent efficiency is not enough. Anything less than 100 percent means the virus is still lurking in the T-cells and will spring back to action as soon as an opportunity presents itself.
"Nature has produced these compounds for various reasons in the plants from which they're derived, but certainly not to treat human maladies," Wender said. "They're not optimized for human therapy."
But with synthetic prostratin and DPP available, researchers can take the basic compounds and tinker with the structure and related function. "We could find out how to improve them by reverse engineering: figuring out what is important and what isn't important," Wender said. "We could begin to design and synthesize molecules that would never be found in nature but might actually be therapeutically more beneficial than what has been found thus far."
In the Science paper, Wender and his team detail how both compounds can be synthesized, but also show the initial phase of designing and making new derivative compounds.
Although prostratin has long been used by traditional Samoan healers without their patients experiencing acute side effects, it is possible that undesirable effects could show up in an immune-impaired patient taking prostratin or DPP. But Wender noted that engi
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|