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Can the MX2 gene stop the HIV virus from replicating?

Written by Admin |Updated : September 19, 2013 3:55 PM IST

According to a study published in the journal Nature, scientists have discovered a new gene which can inhibit the HIV virus from spreading after it has entered the body. The study was led by Dr Caroline Goujon and Professor Mike Malim at the Department of Infectious Diseases, King's College London.

It was conducted by introducing the virus to two separate lines of human cells. On one line, they introduced the MX2 gene along with the virus, while on the other they didn t. The line on which the MX2 gene was introduced, it was seen that the virus had stopped replicating. (Read: Is the HIV vaccine on its way?)

Here is what they Professor Mike Malim had to say:

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This is an extremely exciting finding which advances our understanding of how HIV virus interacts with the immune system and opens up opportunities to develop new therapies to treat the disease,

Until now we knew very little about the MX2 gene, but now we recognise both its potent anti-viral function and a key point of vulnerability in the life cycle of HIV.

Developing drugs to stimulate the body's natural inhibitors is a very important approach because you are triggering a natural process and therefore won't have the problem of drug resistance.

There are two possible routes - it may be possible to develop either a molecule that mimics the role of MX2 or a drug which activates the gene's natural capabilities.

Although people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives with the virus thanks to current effective treatments, they can often be toxic for the body and drug resistance can become an issue with long-term use.

It is important to continue to find new ways of mobilising the body's natural defence systems and this gene appears to be a key player in establishing viral control in people with HIV, he said.

Should we be optimistic or cautious? This isn't the first time that we've been presented with tales of that an HIV cure is on its way. The most famous of them are:

The Berlin Patient

For a long time researchers believed there was no cure. Even five years ago a scientist who wanted to work on HIV cure research was laughed at. But all that changed with Timothy Brown aka the Berlin Patient. Brown an HIV-positive man who developed leukaemia. After first-line cancer treatments failed, a bone marrow transplant procedure was done. Two transplants later, not only was his leukaemia in remission, his immune system actually managed to ward off HIV. Brown no longer takes antiretroviral drugs or tests positive for HIV. Essentially, he was cured. Read more...

Bee venom to cure HIV?

A study suggested that bee venom might have the potency to kill the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine had demonstrated that a toxin called melittin which is found in bee venom is the reason for this. The researchers used nanoparticle technology to target the virus. Particles smaller than HIV were infused with bee venom and since HIV cells are smaller than normal body cells the nanoparticles only targeted HIV.

Melittin on the nanoparticles fuses with the viral envelope, said research instructor Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD. The melittin forms little pore-like attack complexes and ruptures the envelope, stripping it off the virus. Adding, We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV. Theoretically, there isn t any way for the virus to adapt to that. The virus has to have a protective coat, a double-layered membrane that covers the virus.

Stem cell therapy to overcome HIV?

In a path-breaking breakthrough two American are believed to have overcome HIV after undergoing stem-cell therapy! The news has met with widespread elation with experts believing that a cure might be on the cards. Doctors from the Brigham and Women s Hospital in Boston announced on Wednesday night that two previously HIV-positive patients no longer had detectable virus levels in their blood or tissue after having bone marrow stem-cell transplants to treat cancer between two and four years ago, the Age reported. Read more...

Aggressive antiretroviral treatment - The Mississippi baby case

There were reports in March 2013 of a toddler who was completely cured of the virus after being born of it. She has been cured of the disease after following an aggressive regime of drugs. This was the second documented case of a person being completely cured of the virus after an adult known as the Berlin Patient was cured as a result of bone-marrow transplant. This startling piece of information was discovered when the baby s mother stopped treatment and doctors lost track of the baby who was given a bout of heavy drugs (current procedure suggests only a modest daily dose of antiretroviral treatment) about 30 hours after she was born at a rural Mississippi hospital, doctors said at a medical meeting in Atlanta. However, a doctor poured cold water on cold water on what was termed the greatest medical breakthrough of the century .

In his piece, Dr Siedner pointed out in his column, exposure to HIV doesn t mean that the baby will have HIV. We will likely never know if those cells were from the child or maternal cell that has been transmitted during pregnancy or birth. When a child is born, he or she has some maternal cells in his system so it s impossible to tell whether the child actually had HIV or not, or the tests detected the maternal HIV positive cells.

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS is a disease that affects the human immune system. AIDS is the final stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection. If an HIV positive person is left untreated, his/her condition deteriorates into full-blown AIDS where the immune system stops working. Thus the immune system is unable to protect the person from diseases or infections. The virus can be transmitted from an HIV positive person through the exchange of body fluids. This can happen through sexual contact, blood transfusion, needles or from a mother to child during pregnancy. Though there is no cure yet, antiretroviral treatment has proven to be very effective. (Read more..)

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