Researchers discover gene that blocks HIV

February 29, 2008

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."

One of the greatest challenges in battling HIV is the virus' ability to mutate and evade medications. Antiretroviral drugs introduced during the late 1990s interfere with HIV's ability to produce new copies of itself - and even they are beneficial, the drugs are unable to eradicate the virus. Barr and his team have discovered a gene that could potentially do the job naturally.

"There are always newly emerging drug-resistant strains of HIV so the push has been to develop more natural means of blocking the virus. The discovery of this gene, which is natural in our cells, might provide a different avenue," said Barr. "The gene prevents the assembly of the virus so in the future the idea would be to develop drugs or vaccines that can mimic the effects of this gene."

"We are currently trying to figure out why this gene does not work in people infected with HIV and if there is a way to turn this gene on in those individuals," he added. "We hope that our research will lead to the design of new drugs, or vaccines that can halt the person-to-person transmission of HIV and the spread of the virus in the body, thereby blocking the onset of AIDS."

The researchers are now investigating the gene's ability to battle other viruses.

Barr's research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research. The findings are published in the Public Library of Science Pathogens.

Source: University of Alberta

Explore further: A new tool to find latent HIV will advance the current treatment strategies

Related Stories

Researchers use CRISPR to accelerate search for HIV cure

October 25, 2016

Researchers at UC San Francisco and the academically affiliated Gladstone Institutes have used a newly developed gene-editing system to find gene mutations that make human immune cells resistant to HIV infection.

How many genes does it take to make a person?

October 19, 2016

We humans like to think of ourselves as on the top of the heap compared to all the other living things on our planet. Life has evolved over three billion years from simple one-celled creatures through to multicellular plants ...

Recommended for you

S.Africa launches major new trial of AIDS vaccine

November 29, 2016

South Africa on Wednesday launched a major clinical trial of an experimental vaccine against the AIDS virus, which scientists hope could be the "final nail in the coffin" for the disease.

HIV survives in our chromosomal DNA

November 17, 2016

It has been said that HIV cannot be cured since the virus propagates in places beyond the reach of antiviral agents. New research from Karolinska Institutet suggests, however, that this view is incorrect.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MikeMarianiMD,FAAP
1 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2008
"...why this gene does not work in people with HIV..." This remark renders the research findings utterly trivial
Jim_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2008
Mike: I believe you are misreading that comment, it is not stating that the (anti-HIV) gene is ineffective in people, it is stating that people with HIV have an inactive ("not work") TRIM22 gene.
gmurphy
not rated yet Mar 03, 2008
I think ye have both hit on the most important aspect of this article, here appears to be a factor which is effective against HIV, yet, the article does not address its ability to actually treat people with the disease, which is of course, what we really want to know.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.