A breakthrough in decoding the RNA (ribonucleic acid) gene map of the HIV/Aids virus may also help develop treatments for flu and the common cold, say US researchers.
All those viruses employ RNA to perform cell functions using just one strand of genetic material, which depends on complex folding patterns to carry information.
This compares with DNA’s nucleotide building blocks – the familiar A, C, T and G of the genetic code – to carry information on its double-helix structure.
Says Kevin Weeks at the University of North Carolina: “There is so much structure in the HIV RNA genome that it almost certainly plays a previously unappreciated role in the expression of the genetic code.
“We are hopeful that this is going to open up many new opportunities for drug discovery. We have a big list of things we can try.”
His team has developed a new chemical method that creates an image not only of the RNA’s nucleotides, but also of the shapes and folds of the RNA strands.
Copyright Press Association 2009