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A Protein from Primate may Save Humans from HIV !

sity of California, Los Angeles, before he moved to UCF in 2003. Drs. Otto Yang and Robert Lehrer, infectious disease specialists at UCLA, and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Emory University are collaborating with Cole.

There are three classes of defensin peptides, and most research around the world has focused on alpha and beta defensins, the two types that humans still make. Cole studies theta-defensins called retrocyclins, which are no longer made by humans or advanced primates such as chimpanzees. However, theta-defensins are more active against HIV-1 than the other two types of defensins and can be developed in laboratories, two features that suggest retrocyclins still could become an effective way to fight the virus.

HIV-1 is the most common form of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. The disease is often transmitted sexually, and the drugs produced from Cole's research would be applied to the vagina in the form of a gel or cream. Many of the laboratory tests have shown that retrocyclin can prevent HIV-1 infection of human vaginal tissue.

Retrocyclin was still an effective inhibitor of HIV-1 even after 100 days of continuous exposure to human cells in a laboratory setting. Cole and his team are encouraged that only minimal resistance of the virus occurred during that time. Higher resistance levels make it more difficult to develop drugs to fight the virus because doses must be increased substantially over time.

The exact reason why resistance does not develop quickly with retrocyclin is unclear, but it may be a result of retrocyclin interacting with more than one target on both the cell and virus. Viruses that have to defeat more than one antiviral mechanism often develop resistance at a much slower pace.

The next phase of Cole's research will delve more into the mutations that HIV-1 can take in an effort to minimize them as much as possible. Many series of laboratory tests would
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