Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Time to Fight HIV in Our Genes


A lot of scientists are aware of the CCR5 gene and the mutant form of this gene that has a base pair deletion at position 32. The normal CCR5 gene codes for a receptor protein that gets HIV into the cell and people with the mutant form are resistant to HIV because the virus is unable to enter into the cell. It is an exciting time in the medical community because researchers have discovered a new promising gene that could potentially prevent the virus from forming. HIV is a rapidly mutating virus that is hard to stop with vaccines and cocktail drugs. It has been scientists’ objective to find new ways of fighting HIV despite its constant evolution, and they might have discovered a way to fight it naturally.

So what is this magical gene that is located in every cell of our body? It is called the TRIM22 gene and it has the amazing ability to prevent the assembly of the virus in our cells. A team of Canadian researchers at the University of Alberta discovered this gene and are excited to continue doing experiments to see how it works exactly. When the gene was placed into cells it actually prevents the virus from forming and intern prevents the onset of AIDS. In another experiment, the research team prevented cells from turning on the TRIM22 gene which caused the coordinating interferon to become ineffective at blocking the HIV infection. Under normal conditions this interferon coordinates attacks by the TRIM22 gene against infections. This means the TRIM22 gene is a crucial part of our defense against HIV. These research findings can be found in the public library of science pathogens.

Further research is necessary to answer more questions about this gene and its ability. For instance, the TRIM22 gene does not work in people who are already infected with HIV. Reasons for this are still unknown and mind boggling to scientists. Other studies are being done to see what other viruses the TRIM22 gene can fight. The tests done here were conducted using computer analysis and cell cultures, so it will be interesting to see what happens when they test the genes on model organisms.

The prospects of this research are promising and scientist hope to use this natural means for fighting the HIV virus to synthesize drugs that mimic the TRIM22 gene. Science and technology are allowing medicine to go in directions that it has never gone before. With dedicated scientists and proper funding it is possible that we will find a cure to HIV in the next few decades.

[contributed by Sheena Edmonds]



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