Capturing the motion of macromolecules will help researchers make better HIV drugs
By Mara GrunbaumPosted 10.19.2011 at 10:14 am 0 Comments
Early every morning, before dawn if he can, Hashim Al-Hashimi goes running. Six miles, rain or shine, summer heat or bitter Michigan cold (Al-Hashimi works at the University of Michigan). His chosen route is hilly for a reason. Just at the uphill crests—when the muscle pain is sharpest and the body most wants to quit—that’s when his mind is sharpest. “Most of my thinking is at the top of a hill,” he says.
News from the field of HIV research has been pretty promising of late — this summer, we heard good news that antiretroviral treatment is superbly effective, at least when it's used correctly. And thanks to some video gamers, scientists' understanding of proteins involved in HIV keeps getting better. Now researchers have another tool in their arsenal: Stripping the virus itself of its ability to trick the human immune system.
HIV infection sends the immune system into overdrive and eventually exhausts it, which is what leads to AIDS. But removing cholesterol from HIV seems to cripple the virus' ability to over-activate part of the immune system, so it could potentially lead to a vaccine that lets the adaptive immune system attack and destroy the virus — just as it would if HIV was any other pathogen.
Genetically modified glow-in-the-dark cats not only make stylish, futuristic pets, but now provide insight into feline AIDS as well. The cats were injected with an antiviral gene from a rhesus macaque monkey that helps them resist feline AIDS, along with one that produces the fluorescent protein GFP.
Big time news on the fight against AIDS out of Rome today, and it essentially boils down to this: antiretrovirals work (at least, an astoundingly high percentage of the time when they are used correctly). At the biggest forum on HIV and AIDS in the 30-year battle against the deadly epidemic (it still kills 5,000 people a day, FYI), two breakthrough findings show that antiretrovirals (ARVs) not only battle HIV in infected persons, but can stop the disease from spreading in two important ways: it helps prevent HIV-positive folk from transmitting the disease, and also helps prevent non-infected people from contracting it.
A huge story with implications that aren’t all immediately clear is emerging in Berlin this week: doctors treating an HIV-infected with leukemia believe they have, in a roundabout way, cured his HIV infection via a stem cell transplant containing cells that happened to be impervious to HIV infection. And while the story by no means indicates that a cure for HIV has been discovered, the unexpected finding certainly opens the door to further review and great optimism in a frustrating battle that has now spanned several decades.
In a potential breakthrough in the prevention of AIDS, researchers are reporting today that a vaginal gel containing an existing AIDS drug can cut in half a woman's chances of getting HIV from an infected partner.
The women involved in the study used it only 60 percent of the time, and it was still effective -- meaning an even greater prevention rate is possible if it's used more frequently.
American researchers are working on three antibodies that may mark a new step on the path toward an HIV vaccine, according to a report published online Thursday in the journal Science.
One of the antibodies suppresses 91 percent of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody ever discovered, according to a report on the findings published in the Wall Street Journal. The antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man whose body produced them naturally. One antibody in particular is substantially different from its precursors, the Science study says.
This year, the White House is asking you to send more than just your taxes to the government on April 15th. They also want you to send your ideas on which grand, unsolved scientific challenge of the 21st century you think the US should tackle first. They're thinking big here. Landing-on-Mars, cure-for-HIV, cold-fusion big. And Uncle Sam wants you to help them direct the research.
The monetary and energy expense of HIV testing machines prevent their deployment to remote or impoverished areas; the very places that need them the most. To rectify that inequity, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has created a battery-operated HIV testing device the size of an iPod. The machine can return a test result in 10 minutes, and costs significantly less than the large machines used in most hospitals.
A former Pfizer scientist is suing the pharmaceuticals giant after alleging she contracted an artificial, HIV-like, virus created by a colleague. In her lawsuit, Becky McClain claims Pfizer unlawfully dismissed her while she suffered bouts of paralysis brought on by the man-made virus. Pfizer denies these accusations, and says McClain simply didn't come to work, and only linked her problems to engineered-disease exposure after she was fired.