The scientific world is abuzz with excitement about a possible cure for HIV/AIDS – all natural, from the human body itself. //
Announcing the discovery of a peptide (chain of amino acids) derived from filtrate residues of kidney dialysis patients, lead researcher Frank Kirchhoff from the University of Ulm in Germany was quoted: “You want a lot of drug classes, because multi-drug resistant viruses are starting to show up more and more.” Accordingly, this compound found in the human blood could prove the basis of a new class of drugs used to target HIV infections, especially by multi-drug resistant strains.
So how does the drug work? This natural anti-HIV factor interferes with a feature on the surface of the AIDS virus that otherwise allows the virus to penetrate the membrane of cells it is about to infect, a process known as fusion.
As no existing drugs affect this stage of infection, the team hopes the compound could be modified to form a new class of similar drugs.
With nearly 40 million people living with HIV worldwide and 3 million deaths last year, new approaches are urgently needed.
Screening hundreds of proteins from human blood discovered the compound called Virus-Inhibitory Peptide or VIRIP. Test tube studies showed VIRIP to inhibit 60 different strains of HIV.
Says Kirchhoff: "A number of studies have suggested that some compounds in the human blood are able to inhibit HIV-1 and control it."
VIRIP is a fragment of a larger protein, but the team is not sure whether it has a function itself. Nor do the researchers know yet exactly how it inhibits HIV. They do know its precise sequence is crucial: adding or subtracting just one of its 20 protein building blocks destroys its ability.
The report published in the journal Cell, describes how the scientists increased the anti-viral potency a hundred fold by just changing two amino acids in the sequence.
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