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Researchers Discover 'Achilles Heel' of HIV Virus?

An innovative approach in attacking the location where HIV attaches to cells has led researchers from the University of Texas to believe they have found the virus' weak spot. The 'Achilles heel' is hidden within a protein that remains constant among all the mutating forms of the virus. To attack it, they have developed a special antibody with enzymatic activity referred to as an abzyme:

Hiv"[A group led by Sudhir Paul, Ph.D., pathology professor in the UT Medical School] has engineered antibodies with enzymatic activity, also known as abzymes, which can attack the Achilles heel of the virus in a precise way. “The abzymes recognize essentially all of the diverse HIV forms found across the world. This solves the problem of HIV changeability. The next step is to confirm our theory in human clinical trials," Paul said. Unlike regular antibodies, abzymes degrade the virus permanently. A single abzyme molecule inactivates thousands of virus particles. Regular antibodies inactivate only one virus particle, and their anti-viral HIV effect is weaker. 'The work of Dr. Paul’s group is highly innovative. They have identified antibodies that, instead of passively binding to the target molecule, are able to fragment it and destroy its function. Their recent work indicates that naturally occurring catalytic antibodies, particularly those of the IgA subtype, may be useful in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection,' said Steven J. Norris, Ph.D., holder of the Robert Greer Professorship in the Biomedical Sciences and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the UT Medical School at Houston."

More at Science Daily.

In related news, Canadian researchers have isolated two genes which may prevent or slow people from contracting HIV: "The genes were isolated by comparing the genetic profiles of people in their first year of HIV infection with those who managed to resist infection despite repeated exposure to the virus. The 'good' versions of the two genes were present in 12.2 percent of those who resisted infection compared with only 2.7 of patients in primary HIV infection."

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Comments

  1. Please let this be a big step to a cure.

    Posted by: Tralfaz | Jul 17, 2008 12:17:10 PM


  2. WOW!

    Posted by: Zo | Jul 17, 2008 12:46:00 PM


  3. I got my fingers crossed. From what I was able to grasp from the article, they are formulating possible use of this for the prevention of HIV as a vaccine and microbicide, and that is a logical first step, but like TRLFAZ stated I hope this will lead to a cure.

    Posted by: Rafael | Jul 17, 2008 1:13:18 PM


  4. Yes, let's hope this goes somewhere.

    If it does, and a cure is discovered, the resulting worldwide gangbang will shift the Earth off its axis.

    Posted by: Terry | Jul 17, 2008 1:16:29 PM


  5. It's so great Andy includes stories like this one... It's good to have something to be hopeful about.

    Posted by: VR | Jul 17, 2008 1:18:39 PM


  6. We've heard all this before, so I take it with a grain of salt, but it's nice to know that we might have an effective vaccine sometime in the next thirty years.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 17, 2008 2:12:47 PM


  7. Mmmmmm...
    Look at all those chocolate chips on the HIV diagram!

    Posted by: Marc in Chgo | Jul 17, 2008 7:05:13 PM


  8. I'm grateful there are still people doing research on HIV. There's not much mention in the public press. So many millions will benefit.

    Posted by: Ted | Jul 17, 2008 11:15:14 PM


  9. We could have ended this plague if people behaved responsibly. Instead we have folks ranting about gays not being able to donate blood all while there's a new rise in HIV infections among young gay men.

    Frankly, I don't fault the FDA or any organization who prohibits "men who have sex with men" from donating blood. Until the demographics change for sexually active gay men in HIV and Hep incidences, it's the most prudent public policy to for blood banks to discriminate against certain categories of behaviors in potential donors.

    Yes the supply will be screen anyway but those procedures have a certain error rate which will not be reduced if you suddenly add high risk donors to the supply chain. You'll just put an even greater portion of the supply at risk.

    If you take blood products or need a transfusion, do you really want to trust men who statistically can't bother to protect themselves against spreading infection?

    If you want gay men to become suppliers to blood banks the answer is simple: demand safer sex practice of all partners and that will get the statistics to eventually bare out risk that is no worse than the heterosexual population at large. Once the risk is similar, there will be no justification to exclude gay men since they'll no longer be a "high risk" group.

    We've had nearly a generation of living with the specter of HIV and STILL the gay community hasn't taken personal responsibility and stamped out the disease's proliferation.

    The community ought to be ashamed of this record.

    Posted by: queendru | Jul 17, 2008 11:26:17 PM


  10. But wouldn't you agree that the risk of infection is persistent among heterosexuals as well? I don't find your argument justifies the ongoing discrimination against homosexual males. Many of us are responsible in our sex lives and we just want to end this epidemic as everyone else. Besides to say we could have ended this plague without a cure is quite delusional and out of touch.

    Posted by: Rafael | Jul 18, 2008 1:17:11 PM


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