12 March 2008

Researchers discover gene that blocks HIV

This is the announcement we've all been waiting for.

From the article:

A team of researchers at the University of Alberta has discovered a gene that is able to block HIV, and in turn prevent the onset of AIDS.

Stephen Barr, a molecular virologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, says his team has identified a gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection in a cell culture by preventing the assembly of the virus.

"When we put this gene in cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV virus," said Barr, a postdoctoral fellow. "This means the virus cannot get out of the cells to infect other cells, thereby blocking the spread of the virus."

Barr and his team also prevented cells from turning on TRIM22 - provoking an interesting phenomenon: the normal response of interferon, a protein that co-ordinates attacks against viral infections, became useless at blocking HIV infection.

"This means that TRIM22 is an essential part of our body's ability to fight off HIV. The results are very exciting because they show that our bodies have a gene that is capable of stopping the spread of HIV." Read the remainder of the article.
I can't believe that this story came out on 29 February 2008 and I just found it today. I guess I really have had my head in a hole in the sand. :(

The most important impact of this discovery/finding is for the future development of a vaccine against HIV. Essentially, now that scientists have identified a substance (which turns out to be a gene) that blocks HIV, they can now begin working on a way to manufacture this substance into a vaccine, or possibly a cure. I'm not really a molecular biologist or physicist so I don't know the specifics as to how this will all come about; however, I do believe one thing for certain: this discovery is the beginning of the end of the reign HIV/AIDS as a killer virus/disease.

I wonder how long it will take for the development of a vaccine now that we know what to use to make one. Anybody out there have any ideas on this?

Oh, and a great super-humongous megacongratulificaciones to the team at the University of Alberta who made this discovery, and to all those in the scientific community who are racing against the clock to combat this deadly virus and resulting disease! Woot woot woot woot woot!