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A newly identified method of showing how HIV prevents a protein from blocking viruses is an “important finding”, according to scientists.
The naturally occurring protein tetherin is central to the way the immunodeficiency disease spreads in human cells, and the discovery is likely to help researchers develop further treatments.
Past research has pinpointed how the viral protein U (Vpu) also works to spread HIV, by helping to degrade tetherin, but the latest study in Montreal, Canada, showed that Vpu also hampers the protein’s ability to reach the surface of cells where it would trap viruses.
Dr Eric Cohen, who led the study which has been published in PLoS Pathogens, said: “Further characterisation of this mechanism will improve our understanding of host antiviral defences as well as provide new targets for the development of novel anti-HIV drugs.”
Dr Marc Oullette, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s institute of infection and immunity, said: “We need to better understand how HIV is transmitted in order to develop new HIV prevention and treatment strategies. This is a very important finding by Dr Cohen’s research team.”
Copyright Press Association 2010