Protein Discovery Could Lead To Development Of New Antiretroviral

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The discovery of a type of peptide -- short proteins that includenatural and artificial compounds such as hormones and antibiotics --could lead to the development of a new antiretroviral drug thatprevents HIV from entering human cells, according to a study publishedin the Oct. 9 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Michael Kay, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah,and colleagues found that D peptides bind to a key component of HIVcalled a pocket, which helps the virus enter cells. The pocket issimilar in all strains of the virus and is unable to mutate withoutaffecting the virus' ability to enter cells, Kay said. The D peptide"basically" is a "knob that will fit into that pocket and block bindingparticles," preventing the virus from spreading among cells, Kay said.

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Manufacturedpeptides have the potential to be taken orally and are "much moredurable than natural peptides," Kay said, adding that natural peptides"generally make poor drugs because they must be injected and arereadily degraded by the body." According to the Tribune,manufactured D peptides might be able to remain in the body for longerperiods of time than natural peptides. A main component of the research-- which is being funded by NIH, the University of Utah Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society -- is the "attempt to anticipate and avoid drug resistance," according to Kay.

Preclinicaltrials and advanced laboratory studies of D peptides are under way todetermine how well the peptides work. If the peptides are proved safeand effective, they could suppress the spread of the virus inHIV-positive people, preserve their immune systems and preventtransmission to HIV-negative people. A drug could be tested amonghumans within two years, according to the Tribune. Inaddition, a drug using D peptides could be used as a microbicide toprevent the spread of the virus in developing countries, the Tribune reports.

Althoughthe research is in early stages, Kay said he hopes that the discoverywill lead to the development of D peptide treatments for other viruses,such as Ebola and influenza (Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 10/10).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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