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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 49
Synthetic molecule can block HIV
Section One
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Synthetic molecule can block HIV

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Spanish researchers have developed a synthetic molecule capable of blocking the ability of HIV to replicate, according to an article in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

If the virus is prevented from replicating, no new infections can occur and infected cells will eventually die off, leaving the patient HIV-free.

As in all living matter, the replicative genetic material of the HIV-1 virus is formed by ribonucleic acid (RNA). This critical genetic material encodes for special proteins that allow it to penetrate human cells and then reproduce within them.

But the new molecule designed by Spanish scientists, a virus inhibitor called terphenyl, reproduces the interactions of one of the proteins encoded by the virus - a viral protein called REV.

The terphenyl molecules block normal interaction between the REV protein and the virus's RNA receptor. The virus's replicative ability is broken and the normal interaction required for the virus's genetic material to leave the infected cell is prevented.

Thus, with no replication, no further infections of neighboring cells can occur.

Researchers first designed the terphenyl molecule on a computer, and modeled its action. They subsequently synthesized the molecules in the lab. The compound was then tested on living HIV-infected cells.

The lab tests confirmed the computer model of the new molecule's effectiveness.

The next step will be to improve the pharmacological properties of the new REV inhibitors and work towards actual clinical applications.

Researchers told BBC News that the terphenyl structures identified in their research could also open new ways to approach other therapeutic targets.

To date, HIV/AIDS has killed more than 28 million people worldwide. While new HIV vaccine designs show some promise, they will not help the 34 million people estimated to be living with the virus.

In treating existing HIV infections, pharmaceutical companies typically focus on medicines that act on target proteins, but the HIV protein is considered a very difficult target because of the complexity of its RNA receptors.

This new research therefore offers some hope, if it proves itself in clinical tests, of finding a different approach to blocking HIV infections.

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Synthetic molecule can block HIV
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