Nav: Home

International team discovers natural defense against HIV

September 16, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Researchers at Michigan State University were part of a team to discover a new natural defense against HIV infection.

The team's discovery, featured in the current issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, focuses on ERManI, a protein that prevents the HIV virus from replicating.

"In earlier studies, we knew that we could interfere with the spread of HIV-1, but we couldn't identify the mechanism that was stopping the process," said Yong-Hui Zheng, MSU associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and co-author of the study. "We now know that ERManI is an essential key, and that it has the potential as a antiretroviral treatment."

Antiretroviral treatments are not vaccines; they simply keep HIV in check in low levels in the body. While it could be decades before an ERManI-based treatment can be prescribed for HIV-1 patients, these results provide a strong path for future research involving human cells, and later, clinical tests.

The next steps will be to test if HIV resistance can be promoted by increasing ERManI levels, said Zheng, who worked on the study with scientists from the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Georgia.

Most viruses have viral envelopes, or protective skins, that comprise similar building blocks of the host the pathogens are trying to infect. On the surface of the envelope, there are viral glycoproteins, known as Env spikes, which act as valets, leading viruses to binding sites that allow infections to spread at the molecular level. They serve as a key of sorts that gives viruses entry into the host to begin spreading.

Zheng's lab was the first to show that HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein biosynthesis can be specifically inhibited by ERManI, which is a host enzyme to add sugars to proteins. By identifying ERManI as the target that slows the spread of HIV-1, the team has revealed a target in which future natural therapies can be developed.

More than 1.2 million people in the United States have HIV. In China, doctors diagnosed 104,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS in 2014. The number of infections is rising, though overall the country still has a low rate of infection.

Currently, there is no cure for HIV-1; once patients have it, they have it for life. While there are antiretroviral therapies available, they can only prolong life, albeit dramatically, but they cannot cure the disease. Current drug treatments have to be taken for a lifetime, which causes side effects and many other issues, Zheng said.

"We see a way to treat this disease by helping the body protect itself," he said. "That's why we continue to move our research forward, seemingly slowly at times, because finding a cure will take years. We feel that's it's important enough, on a world-wide scale, to dedicate our work to fighting this disease."
-end-
This research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

For MSU news on the Web, go to MSUToday. Follow MSU News on Twitter at twitter.com/MSUnews.

Michigan State University

Related Hiv Articles:

Defective HIV proviruses reduce effective immune system response, interfere with HIV cure
A new study finds defective HIV proviruses, long thought to be harmless, produce viral proteins and distract the immune system from killing intact proviruses needed to reduce the HIV reservoir and cure HIV.
1 in 7 people living with HIV in the EU/EEA are not aware of their HIV status
Almost 30,000 newly diagnosed HIV infections were reported by the 31 European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries in 2015, according to data published today by ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
Smoking may shorten the lifespan of people living with HIV more than HIV itself
A new study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that cigarette smoking substantially reduces the lifespan of people living with HIV in the US, potentially even more than HIV itself.
For smokers with HIV, smoking may now be more harmful than HIV itself
HIV-positive individuals who smoke cigarettes may be more likely to die from smoking-related disease than the infection itself, according to a new study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Patients diagnosed late with HIV infection are more likely to transmit HIV to others
An estimated 1.2 million people live with HIV in the United States, with nearly 13 percent being unaware of their infection.
The Lancet HIV: New HIV infections stagnating at 2.5 million a year worldwide
A major new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease 2015 study, published today in The Lancet HIV journal, reveals that although deaths from HIV/AIDS have been steadily declining from a peak in 2005, 2.5 million people worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2015, a number that hasn't changed substantially in the past 10 years.
NIH scientists discover that defective HIV DNA can encode HIV-related proteins
Investigators from the National Institutes of Health have discovered that cells from HIV-infected people whose virus is suppressed with treatment harbor defective HIV DNA that can nevertheless be transcribed into a template for producing HIV-related proteins.
Study examines risk of HIV transmission from condomless sex with virologically suppressed HIV infection
Among nearly 900 serodifferent (one partner is HIV-positive, one is HIV-negative) heterosexual and men who have sex with men couples in which the HIV-positive partner was using suppressive antiretroviral therapy and who reported condomless sex, during a median follow-up of 1.3 years per couple, there were no documented cases of within-couple HIV transmission, according to a study appearing in the July 12 issue of JAMA, an HIV/AIDS theme issue.
HIV vaccine design should adapt as HIV virus mutates
Researchers from UAB, Emory and Microsoft demonstrate that HIV has evolved to be pre-adapted to the immune response, worsening clinical outcomes in newly infected patients.
Charlie Sheen's HIV disclosure may reinvigorate awareness, prevention of HIV
Actor Charlie Sheen's public disclosure in November 2015 that he has the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) corresponded with the greatest number of HIV-related Google searches ever recorded in the United States, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Related Hiv Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".