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Author Topic: Gene could stop spread of HIV  (Read 1522 times)

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Offline hanan

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Gene could stop spread of HIV
« on: February 29, 2008, 08:51:13 AM »

Gene could stop spread of HIV

New research out of the University of Alberta shows that a gene found in the human body could be used to stop the spread of HIV.
“It’s very exciting for patients who are infected with HIV,” said researcher Dr. Stephen Barr. “It gives them another target or hope that there is another gene that can help them out in their fight.”

News that there could be another weapon against HIV/AIDS is indeed a big deal, said Debra Jakubec, executive director of HIV Edmonton.

“It’s exciting research. It is still probably a far ways from getting it out of clinical research but it is exciting,” added Jakubec.

Three years ago while at the University of Pennsylvania, Barr, 32, began his work on a gene called TRIM22 – work that continued when he moved to the University of Alberta’s department of medical microbiology and immunology two years ago.

TRIM22 is a gene in humans that fights viruses. For a reason still unknown, TRIM22 doesn’t work in patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).


But lab tests have shown that when TRIM22 is turned on in cell cultures infected with HIV, the gene stops the assembly of the virus and essentially locks the virus in the cell like a prisoner in a cage. If it can’t get out of the cell, the spread of HIV is stopped in its tracks.

“This gene works particularly at preventing the virus from getting out of cells. So it can’t stop the virus from getting in (to the cell) but it can lock it in so it can’t get out,” said Barr, whose research is being published in the medical journal PloS Pathogens.

It’s not a cure, cautioned Barr. It hasn’t been tried in live patients so it’s not known if TRIM22 could be turned on in a person or what would happen, but it could be a major step towards finding a cure.

“One hope is that if you can trap the virus in the cell, other defence mechanisms in the cell will try to get rid of it,” said Barr.

Another possibility is researchers may be able to develop drugs that mimic TRIM22 to be used to block the spread of HIV or even to possibly cure it.

“If we include TRIM22 in our therapies, it can be used in combination with drugs to make them more effective at blocking and killing the virus,” said Barr.

Jakubec is hopeful this research will help in finding a cure or vaccine, but she also cautions that cure is still a long ways off.

“If something does come out that’s a preventative vaccine, we would still want people to know just how effective it is and still practice safer sex,” she said.

She noted that Alberta is seeing rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis. Even the number of HIV infections in Alberta appears to be on the rise. New infections in the province used to average 170-180 per year, but in 2006 that rose to 218.

Barr is also cautioning that this is just a step in the fight against AIDS.

“We’re really in the infancy of the research. This is the initial discovery and we need to go in and find out how the virus is interacting with TRIM22, such as does the virus have a way of killing TRIM22 so that it can survive?”



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