An American scientist has unravelled how the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) appropriates the body’s own defences to promote AIDS, a discovery that could help curb its spread.
Nevin Krogan, associate professor of cellular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), described how HIV commandeers restriction factors, a class of proteins that have evolved to block viruses such as HIV, to weaken the body’s defences and enhance the virulence of HIV infection.
“One of the keys to HIV’s success is how quickly it can evolve new attack strategies — and the way in which it uses our own proteins against us is a prime example of that,” said Krogan.
“However, now that we’ve shed light on this complex process, we are one step closer to developing new drugs that will help us pull ahead in this evolutionary arms race,” said Krogan.
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people around the world since first being identified some 30 years ago. In the US alone, more than one million people live with HIV/AIDS at an annual cost of $34 billion.
Krogan’s experiments show promise for the development of more effective antiretroviral therapies for people with HIV. Further, they have laid the foundation for future research at Gladstone Institute, affiliated with UCSF.