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The National Institutes of Health says researchers have found a way to block a step in the HIV invasion process that may lead to the development of new drugs.
On July 12, 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that NIH researchers have blocked a step in the process HIV uses to inject its genetic material into cells. NIH researchers discovered the step in the HIV invasion process and used cultures of cells and tissues to find a way to chemically block the step and prevent HIV genetic material from entering cells.
The findings, published in Cell Host & Microbe, may lead to the development of new drugs to prevent HIV.
HIV infects a cell when a protein on the surface of HIV binds to the molecules on the cells surface. After biding, a sequence of events leads to HIV’s outer membrane fusing with the cell’s membrane. HIV genetic material then enters the cell. The researchers found that the binding process activates the TMEM 16F protein, which “transfers another molecule inside the cell membrane, phosphatidylserine, to the membrane’s outer surface.”
The researchers blocked the transfer of phosphatidylserine to the cell surface or attached another molecule to phosphatidylserine so it could not bind with HIV. This blocking prevented the virus from infecting the cell. NIH stated that “theoretically, developing drugs that could block each of these steps could provide the basis for treatments to prevent HIV from infecting cells, but much more research is needed.”
The NIH study was led by Leonid V. Chernomordik, PhD, at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).