It is a fact that humans possess unique multi-layered defense systems against viral infections. A recent study by the University of Texas shows that a better understanding of the defenses and the tricks used in invading them could open new avenues for treating viral infections and mark a step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The university’s Health Science Center in San Antonio experimented with the human protein SAMHD1. It prevents the replication of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other viruses by reducing deoxynucleotides. The latter are building blocks needed for the reproduction of the viral genome.
While it remains a mystery how the protein activates this response, UTHSC researchers have uncovered that SAMHD1 recognizes a unique molecular pattern in nucleic acids. They referred to the design as “Phosphorothioation.” It usually signals the protein for action.
According to the researchers, understanding the mechanism of SAMHD1 activation could be a step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Corey H. Yu, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the university, said if they can increase SAMHD1 activity using a specific drug, they could potentially have anti-HIV activity.
Yu said antivirals target viral proteins. If they add to it therapies, it could unleash the power of existing immune defenses on the virus. This way, it will eliminate it from the body, which could be a potential game-changer.
The postdoctoral fellow added that it’s a different way to look at antiviral drugs. He noted that they wanted to know if they can target a protein to boost its activity against HIV. The researchers seem to be on the right track, but time will reveal their hypothesis’ conclusion.
In the meantime, PrEP drugs like Truvada and Cabotegravir continue to help prevent HIV infection in many individuals. Hopefully, they’ll continue holding the fort until science finds a permanent cure.
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