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Unexpected find opens up new front in effort to stop HIV
Date:1/22/2011

HIV adapts in a surprising way to survive and thrive in its hiding spot within the human immune system, scientists have learned. While the finding helps explain why HIV remains such a formidable foe after three decades of research more than 30 million people worldwide are infected with HIV it also offers scientists a new, unexpected way to try to stop the virus.

The work by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Emory University was published Dec. 10 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

It's thanks largely to its ability to hide out in the body that HIV is able to survive for decades and ultimately win out against the body's relentless immune assault. One of the virus's favorite hiding spots is an immune cell called a macrophage, whose job is to chew up and destroy foreign invaders and cellular debris.

For more than 15 years, Baek Kim, Ph.D., has been fascinated by HIV's ability to take cover in a cell whose very job is to kill foreign cells. In the last couple of years Kim, professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has teamed with Emory scientist Raymond F. Schinazi, Ph.D., D.Sc., director of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology at Emory's Center for AIDS Research, to test whether the virus is somehow able to sidestep its usual way of replicating when it's in the macrophage.

The pair found that when HIV faces a shortage of the molecular machinery needed to copy itself within the macrophage, the virus adapts by bypassing one of the molecules it usually uses and instead tapping another molecule that is available.

Normally, the virus uses dNTP (deoxynucleoside triphosphate, the building blocks for making the viral genetic machinery) to get the job done, but dNTP is hardly present in macrophages macrophages don't need it, since they don't replicate. But macrophages do have high levels of a closely related molecule called rNTP (ribonu
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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