BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 11, 2011 An international team of researchers is reporting that it has uncovered new information about human papillomavirus that one day may aid in the development of drugs to eliminate the cervical-cancer-causing infection.
Led by researcher Per Jemth of Uppsala University in Sweden, the collaborators from four institutions detail in the Journal of Biological Chemistry how an offensive protein generated by the sexually transmitted virus handicaps a defensive protein made by the human body.
Co-author Neil Ferguson, a biophysicist at University College Dublin, says: "It has proved difficult to stem the proliferation of many viruses using conventional drug discovery. Inhibitors of protein-protein interactions, as in HPV's case, are potentially potent ways to perturb viral infections."
There are almost 200 strains of HPV, dozens of which are transmitted through genital contact, and about half of sexually active people have had one or more infections.
The immune system eliminates the virus within two years in about 90 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, but it lingers for many years in a minority of cases. Some strains result in no visible symptoms, others cause genital warts and still others cause cancer.
"Infection by high-risk human papillomaviruses is causing as many as half a million cases of cervical cancer and more than 200,000 deaths among women per year, making it one of the most common forms of cancer," Jemth emphasized.
For the virus to replicate, it has to interfere with the body's natural inclination to kill infected cells.
What is known as "programmed cell death," or the destruction of sick cells, ordinarily is carried out by several human proteins. However, when HPV is present, the virus sends out two of its own assassin proteins, known as E6 and E7, to stop the defensive human proteins in their trac
|Contact: Angela Hopp|
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology