Researchers make HIV wake up call

March 4, 2013
Melbourne researchers make HIV wake up call
Melbourne researchers have made a breakthrough in the search for an AIDS cure.

Researchers have moved a step closer to finding a cure for HIV by successfully luring the 'sleeping' virus out of hiding in infected cells.

New research has shown how the cancer drug vorinostat is able to 'wake up' the sleeping virus that silently persists in patients on standard , by altering how are turned on and off.

Professor Sharon Lewin, head of Monash University's Department of Infectious Diseases, Director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Alfred Hospital, and co-head, Centre for Virology at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, said the results from the trial were promising and would inform further studies in the quest to cure HIV.

"We know the virus can hide in cells and remain out of reach from conventional HIV therapies and the immune system," Professor Lewin said.

"Anti- are unable to eradicate the virus because it burrows deeply into the DNA of , where it gets stuck and goes to sleep. Anti-HIV drugs are very effective in keeping people healthy but they can't eliminate virus that is sleeping.

"We wanted to see if we could wake the virus up – and using vorinostat we have successfully done that."

Twenty HIV-positive patients in Victoria were the first in the world to participate in the trial of vorinostat.

"This is a very important step but the results of the trial have raised further questions.

"We've shown we can wake up the virus – now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell. A kick start to the immune system might help," Professor Lewin said.

"We have an enormous amount still to learn about how to ultimately eradicate this very smart virus."

In 2012, Professor Lewin and her team first uncovered how the virus, which currently infects more than 30 million people world wide, hides dormant in infected cells, out of the reach of and the immune system.

The research was presented at the 20th Annual Conference on Retrovirus and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

Explore further: Vaccination strategy may hold key to ridding HIV infection from immune system

Related Stories

Drug helps purge hidden HIV virus, study shows

March 8, 2012

A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have successfully flushed latent HIV infection from hiding, with a drug used to treat certain types of lymphoma.

Pioneering research shows drug can purge dormant HIV

July 25, 2012

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have published pioneering research showing that a drug used to treat certain types of lymphoma was able to dislodge hidden virus in patients receiving treatment ...

Recommended for you

Videos reveal how HIV spreads in real time

October 2, 2015

How retroviruses like HIV spread in their hosts had been unknown—until a Yale team devised a way to watch it actually happen in a living organism. The elaborate and sometimes surprising steps the virus takes to reach and ...

Researchers find proteins that shut down HIV-1

September 30, 2015

A pair of studies by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the University of Trento in Italy, and the University of Geneva in Switzerland, point to a promising new anti-retroviral strategy for combating ...

An antibody that can attack HIV in new ways

September 11, 2015

Proteins called broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) are a promising key to the prevention of infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. bNAbs have been found in blood samples from some HIV patients whose immune systems ...


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.