Thursday, August 10, 2006

Primate Peptide May Block HIV

U.S. scientists say they've determined a defense peptide found in primates might block some human HIV transmissions.

As primates evolved 7 million years ago, the more advanced species stopped making a protein that University of Central Florida researchers believe can effectively block the HIV-1 virus from entering and infecting blood cells.

HIV-1 often mutates quickly to overcome antiviral compounds designed to prevent infections. But a team led by Associate Professor Alexander Cole of UCF's Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences has demonstrated that, during a 100-day period, the virus develops only weak resistance to retrocyclin, a defense peptide still found in monkeys and lower primates.

If additional laboratory tests demonstrate only weak resistance, Cole will study how retrocyclin could be developed into a drug designed to prevent the HIV virus from entering human cells.

If we could develop retrocyclin in plants and produce enough of the drug cheaply, we could potentially save a lot of lives, Cole said.

Cole was recently awarded $4 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health for the HIV-1 research and similar studies.

Cole's findings appeared in the June 1 issue of The Journal of Immunology.


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