A team of researchers at the University of Alberta, including a scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, have discovered a gene that is able to block HIV, and thought to in turn prevent the onset of AIDS.
Dr. Stephen Barr, a researcher in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology at the U of A, says his team identified a human gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection in a cell culture by preventing the assembly of the virus.
Barr says “interestingly, when we prevent cells from turning on TRIM22, the normal interferon response (a natural defense produced by our cells to fight infection by viruses such as HIV) is useless at blocking HIV infection. This means TRIM22 is an essential part of our body’s ability to fight off HIV.”
Barr’s team finds the results very exciting because it shows our bodies have a gene that is capable of stopping the spread of HIV. They are now 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.
“We hope that our research will lead to the design of new drugs and/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.”
Citation: Barr SD, Smiley JR, Bushman FD (2008) The Interferon Response Inhibits HIV Particle Production by Induction of TRIM22. PLoS Pathog 4(2): e1000007. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000007