Protein Essential for Formation of HIV’s Outer Shell Could be Target of New Treatments
A team of researchers from the University of California-San Francisco, the University of Washington and Rutgers University has identified a protein, known as HP68, that is "essential" for the formation of HIV's outer shell, presenting scientists with another possible treatment pathway, according to a research letter published in the Jan. 3 issue of Nature (Zimmerman et al., Nature, 1/3). According to the report, HIV uses the human body's HP68 to assemble its outer shell, known as a capsid. The team of researchers, which was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is now examining ways to keep HIV from accessing the body's HP68. "If you disrupt the association of HP68 with HIV, you can shut down production of the virus," researcher Bonnie Firestein said, noting that researchers "still need to know a lot more" before they can develop a drug to target HP68. Carl Dieffenbach, associate director of basic sciences at NIAID, agreeing that more research is needed, said that scientists have recently discovered several other proteins that play a role in HIV replication, and it is impossible to know which one will be the virus' weak spot. Dieffenbach added that HP68 is a "natural target for therapeutic discovery" (Campbell, Newark Star-Ledger, 1/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.