Tokyo: Japanese researchers have increased hopes for the development of new medicines that could block HIV attacks, by identifying the structure of an immune-cell protein targeted by the virus.
Researchers from the National Hospital Organization Nagoya Medical Center and Nagoya University made the discovery.
Lymphocyte cells that have virus-fighting proteins on their surface are a central part of the human immune system.
But an HIV protein called Vif (viral infectivity factor) is able to bind and destroy these proteins, which allows the AIDS-causing virus to enter the cells and multiply.
The molecular structure of an antivirus protein called APOBEC3C was analysed by the researchers, and they found that it contains a cavity that Vif can bind to, Japan Times reported.
They confirmed the process through which this phenomenon occurs, and found that this protein falls apart once the two combine, their report said.
While existing medicines to combat HIV often cause side effects or become less potent if used over a long period, the team’s finding has raised “the possibility for the development of a new AIDS treatment that taps into the human body’s own defense mechanism,” Yasumasa Iwatani, who heads the medical center’s laboratory of infectious diseases, said.
The team said that they now plan to look for compounds that can fit into the protein cavity and block attacks by HIV to study the effectiveness of different candidate compounds.
The study is published in the US journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.