A New Frankenstein Molecule Makes HIV Self-Destruct

We’ve made huge advances towards conquering HIV, the immune-system-crippling virus that causes AIDS. But this disease still exists, causing nearly two million deaths annually, in large part because the virus develops drug-resistant mutations so quickly. Researchers at Drexel University have a different approach — a molecule that tricks the virus into self-destructing before it infects cells.

Like all viruses, HIV works by latching onto healthy cells and inserting its DNA, turning the cells into factories that fill up with HIV and burst. Drexel University’s Dual Action Virolytic Entry Inhibitor, or DAVEI, combines a modified component of HIV’s cell-binding mechanism with a protein that tricks the virus into opening its protective coating. DAVEI selectively binds HIV and makes the virus react as if it’s attached to a cell, spitting out its contents. By scattering the components of the virus and destroying the capsule needed to insert them into a cell, DAVEI renders the virus harmless.

Since widespread HIV infection in a patient’s immune system is what causes AIDS, destroying the virus quickly could prevent the immunodeficiency from ever taking hold. Further research is needed, of course, but a targeted mechanism that mechanically inactivates HIV could help fight even drug-resistant viral strains. [MedicalXpress]