Target Found in HIV Cells: New and Promising Results

HIV treatment is something researchers and scientists are continually pursuing. This is because, as the HIV cells mutate and become resistant to some medications, new medications need to be developed and varied types of treatment need to be utilized. In this pursuit, researchers have identified a new target for eliminating HIV replication and preventing the spread of the HIV cells in the body. This promising target found in HIV cells deals with the ‘activation’ period HIV has after a dormant phase. The virus cells can lay dormant for months, even several years, before it suddenly ‘awakens.’ HIV then begins its erratic replication process, destroying the body’s immune system in the process.

Scientists believed for many years that this activation process – the awakening of the HIV cells in the body – is caused by two components, the protein that HIV produces, called Tat, and the CycT1 protein. Indeed, they thought CycT1 protein was the only activation protein which caused Tat to activate the HIV cell and start the replication process. The most recent discovery is of a new protein – Ssu72 phosphatase – which seems to also be intimately connected to this activation process.

After this discovery, and subsequent studies to identify that this protein is indeed involved in the activation process of HIV cells, several new treatments are now thought to be possible. The first protein involved in causing Tat to start the HIV replication process – CycT1 – is used by the body for normal activity. Therefore, it cannot be a target of anti-HIV drugs (without disrupting the normal bodily activities it is involved in). Ssu72, however, is not used in normal body processes and can be targeted by anti-HIV drugs. This target found in HIV cells is now being studied as a means to eliminate or disable this protein—long before it starts the Tat’s process of HIV cell replication.