Protein Discovery Could Lead to Development of New Antiretroviral That Prevents HIV From Entering Cells, Study Says
The discovery of a type of peptide -- short proteins that include natural and artificial compounds such as hormones and antibiotics -- could lead to the development of a new antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV from entering human cells, according to a study published in the Oct. 9 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Michael Kay, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah, and colleagues found that D peptides bind to a key component of HIV called a pocket, which helps the virus enter cells. The pocket is similar in all strains of the virus and is unable to mutate without affecting the virus' ability to enter cells, Kay said. The D peptide "basically" is a "knob that will fit into that pocket and block binding particles," preventing the virus from spreading among cells, Kay said.
Manufactured peptides have the potential to be taken orally and are "much more durable than natural peptides," Kay said, adding that natural peptides "generally make poor drugs because they must be injected and are readily degraded by the body." According to the Tribune, manufactured D peptides might be able to remain in the body for longer periods of time than natural peptides. A main component of the research -- which is being funded by NIH, the University of Utah Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society -- is the "attempt to anticipate and avoid drug resistance," according to Kay.
Preclinical trials and advanced laboratory studies of D peptides are under way to determine how well the peptides work. If the peptides are proved safe and effective, they could suppress the spread of the virus in HIV-positive people, preserve their immune systems and prevent transmission to HIV-negative people. A drug could be tested among humans within two years, according to the Tribune. In addition, a drug using D peptides could be used as a microbicide to prevent the spread of the virus in developing countries, the Tribune reports.
Although the research is in early stages, Kay said he hopes that the discovery will lead to the development of D peptide treatments for other viruses, such as Ebola and influenza (Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 10/10).