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Researcher Turns HIV on Itself

Mutated protein stops virus replication, hints at AIDS cure (Jan. 16)

A researcher at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia has developed a way to use the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to stop its own replication in the laboratory.

“This is like fighting fire with fire,” said associate professor David Harrich. “If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are a many hurdles to clear, we’re looking at a cure for AIDS.”

Harrich has determined how to modify a protein in the virus, so that the protein provides lasting protection from infection. The mutated “Nullbasic” protein has shown the ability to stop the virus from replicating in a lab environment, according to the recent announcement.

“You would still be infected with HIV — it’s not a cure for the virus,” Harrich said. “But the virus would stay latent; it wouldn’t wake up, so it wouldn’t develop into AIDS. With a treatment like this, you would maintain a healthy immune system.”

The successful development of this type of treatment would also have significant economic implications. HIV patients currently take an array of drugs for the rest of their lives, which can incur a significant financial burden.

Source: Queensland Institute of Medical Research; January 16, 2013.

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