Friday, 20 September 2013

Killing the AIDS virus

Pulling a fast one is very common today but how about doing the same on a virus and that too for a disease which is today the most dreaded in the world.
This disease has been the scourge of the world and it is feared and despised in equal measure. As of now, it has no cure but researchers and doctors recommend a series of measures to lessen its impact and decrease its potency of causing harm.
Though it was initially diagnosed in 1986, it spread so quickly that it is more of a pandemic than an epidemic and it is widely prevalent in Africa, Asia and of course the United States.
Millions have died due to it and million more are suffering from it. Yet, no organisation or country has won the race for a cure though almost all countries and major pharmaceutical companies have funded research into it.
India too is a major victim of this dreaded disease and it was at one point of time thought to be so virulent that doctors and hospitals feared that millions would die. Thankfully that has not happened due to a variety of reasons and the diseases has been showing a decreasing trend.
Yet, India is also staggering affected by it and it is funding Ayurvedic research into it. It also has established an exclusive institute for research into the disease.
This is HIV/AIDS.
The disease is in the news now as researchers in the United States have come up with a synthetic molecule that can be injected into human beings. What is so great?, you may ask.
The molecule will dupe infected cells with AIDS virus in human beings and pull a fast one on them to kill themselves.      
The synthetic is DAVEI and it was developed by researchers at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, which also included an Indian.
DAVEI causes the deadly pathogen to eject its contents before it can infect other human cells.
How dos DAVEI do this?
The AIDS virus which is already present in a human cell uses protein spikes on its surface to fuse itself to healthy and uninfected cells.  Once attached, the microbe inserts its genetic material into the new cells and transforming them into a factory assembly line that throws out copies of  infected HIV cells.
Here is where DAVEI come in. It gets into the cell, hijacks the virus, mimics its interaction with immune system cells, binds itself to the pathogen's outer coat and triggers a firing mechanism that breaches the wall of the AIDS virus. This leads the infected cell to die without infecting other cells.
This is what researchers at the United States’ Drexel University achieved.
The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Drexel’s College of Medicine was conducting research on HIV/AIDS and it came up with this study .
DAVEI ensures that the virus in the infected cells go out, believing that they are infecting other cells. Once they leak out, they die a natural death as they shrink and they have no new cell to multiply.
DAVEI was first designed by Cameron Abrams, a professor of Engineering at Drexel. He initially envisioned it as a synthetic agent in a microbicide, a cream or gel that women could use vaginally to protect themselves from contracting the disease from their HIV-infected partners.
 Now, the researchers say DAVEI can also possibly be used in the future as a treatment for those who are HIV positive by destroying infected cells.
However, this new discovery is just a beginning. Much more needs to be done before actual anti-HIV therapies could be developed.  An article on the synthetic or manmade molecule-DAVAI- was published in the October edition of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
DAVEI means Dual Action Virolytic Entry Inhibitor and this is the latest in a new generation of  treatments that specifically destroy the AIDS virus without harming healthy and uninfected cells
DAVEI can be called as a microbicide that can trick HIV into killing itself without disturbing healthy cells.
True, DAVEI is not the only molecule which has been discovered,. There are many others but DAVEI has high potency and it is more specific than others, claim the researchers who include Dr. Cameron Abrams, Dr Irwin Chaiken  and R.V Kalyan Sundaram.
They developed this chimeric recombinantly engineered protein -a molecule assembled from pieces of other molecules and engineered for a specific purpose- to fight HIV.
The researchers designed DAVEI from two main ingredients. One piece, called the Membrane Proximal External Region (MPER), is itself a small piece of the fusion machinery and it interacts strongly with viral membranes.
The other piece, called cyanovirin, binds itself to the sugar coating of the protein spike. Working in tandem, the MPER and cyanovirin in DAVEI tweak the fusion machinery so that it mimics the forces it feels when attached to a cell. Thus, the HIV is tricked into popping itself into oblivion. 
DAVEI is now programmed to pull a fast one on HIV. The initial tests and research was conducted after being invested and tested by scientists from Drexel’s College of Engineering; School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; and College of Medicine.
The research team was co-led by Abrams and Dr. Irwin Chaiken in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Drexel’s College of Medicine, and included Dr. Mark Contarino and doctoral students Arangassery Rosemary Bastian and R. V. Kalyana Sundaram.

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