AIDS: Bursting HIV’s bubble
October 20, 2013 Editor 0
CURRENT treatments for HIV infection work by stopping the virus from reproducing in cells it has infected. But there may be a better way, namely stopping those cells getting infected in the first place. That is the route proposed by Cameron Abrams and Irwin Chaiken of Drexel University in Pennsylvania. As they describe in this month’s Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, they have found a way to blow the virus up.Unlike many viruses, HIV has a fatty outer membrane similar to that surrounding a living cell. The crucial insight Dr Abrams and Dr Chaiken had was that this membrane probably acts like a balloon—in other words the pressure inside it is greater than the pressure outside it. That means it can be burst, which is what they believe provides the driving force by which a virus injects its genetic material into a cell in order to infect it.That process starts with the fusion of spikes made of a protein complex known as Env (short for envelope), that are dotted over the viral membrane, with another protein, CD4, which is found on the surface of certain immune-system cells called T-cells. Thus attached to its prey, a virus is able to inject its genetic material into the T-cell, take it over, and turn it into a factory for the production of more viruses.The process of fusion is well understood; that of injection less so. But Dr Abrams and Dr Chaiken…
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Categories: The Economist
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