A team of scientists from Northwestern Medicine and Vanderbilt University have made a groundbreaking discovery that could push forward HIV treatment significantly. The virus feeds on sugar and, deprived of it, can no longer reproduce itself. The scientists involved in the recent study, published in PLOS Pathogens on May 28, have discovered the mechanism through which the virus attacks the sugar deposit of an infected cell and uses it to fuel its further expansion in the human body.
Sabotaging the HIV Feeding Mechanism
The HIV virus targets CD4+ T immune cells which are already activated – they respond to blood pathogens. Once the activation has taken place, the virus commands increasing supplies of sugar to the cell. In this manner, HIV virus has enough fuel to divide itself, break free from the initially infested cell and send its replicas to other similar immune cells to infest them.
The breakthrough achieved by the scientists involved in the study was the identification of this pipeline mechanism used by the virus to feed itself and successfully blocking it with a special compound. The tests were conducted in vitro on human cells and all the results of repeated trials and experiments were successful. The HIV feeding switch was blocked by the experimental compound and the virus could no longer access extra sugar supplies.
Opening New Treatment Possibilities
The Northwestern & Vanderbilt experiments are good news not only for HIV treatment researches, but also for oncologists experimenting with new drugs for different types of cancer. It is already known that cancer cells also crave sugar and, thus, a similar experiment may create a new, safer and more efficient form of treatment.
Meanwhile, the new findings regarding the HIV reproduction mechanism is the first non-toxic approach to killing the virus and minimizing the damages to the internal organ. One of the study authors, research assistant professor Harry Taylor of Northwestern University Feinberg School of medicine has stated that:
“It’s essential to find new ways to block HIV growth, because the virus is constantly mutating. A drug targeting HIV that works today may be less effective a few years down the road, because HIV can mutate itself to evade the drug.”
This means that the search for new and more efficient treatments for HIV are not only welcome, but essential, as a whole generation of patients may become unresponsive to current treatment protocols. The breakthrough of this study is a fundamentally new approach to blocking the HIV virus expansion throughout the entire body. The researchers hope that the strategy of starving the virus of its fuel supply will eventually lead to its dying out.
Image Source: HIV Virus