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Flushing Out HIV

July 30, 2012

Researchers are developing a technique that could potentially flush out reservoirs of latent HIV.



Weeding out latent HIV.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Right now, HIV can be managed, but not cured. That’s because today’s drugs can’t eradicate latent stores of the virus, which hide in the body but can activate later.  Stanford University chemist Paul Wender is developing a way to flush those dormant viruses out of hiding, so the anti-viral drugs can attack them.

PAUL WENDER (Stanford University):

It’s a little bit like pulling weeds.  If you only cut the top of the weed off, the weed will grow back. So we need a way of getting at the roots, and that’s essentially what we’re doing in our research.

The key ingredients are synthetic variations on bryostatin, a molecule found in a mossy sea creature. These compounds activate an enzyme called protein kinase C, which in turn activates and releases dormant viruses.  The work’s still in the lab phase, but Wender says the approach may someday make it possible to completely wipe out an HIV infection.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Molecular Structure of Bryostatin. (Wikimedia Commons)