Researchers pinpoint human proteins HIV needs to survive

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Researchers at Harvard Medical school have discovered 273 of the human proteins that the HIV virus preys on to damage the body.

Experts have always known the virus depended on human proteins to attack the body, but only knew what 36 of these proteins were before last Thursday.

The new research was published online by the journal Science .

Scientists used a type of genetic screen to discover these new human proteins, which the virus needs to survive in human cells.

The proteins the virus needs have been dubbed HIV dependency factors.

The team of scientists used a technique called RNA interference, which stops a gene’s ability to make protein.

HIV is a simple virus with only nine genes. It takes over its’ victims cells so it can multiply and become stronger.

Researchers disrupted various genes in test tubes and later added the HIV virus.

When the virus didn’t spread effectively in some of the genes, researchers could pin point which proteins it needed to survive.

However, it will take far more research to discover how important these proteins actually in enabling the virus to damage human cells.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is the American government’s top AIDS expert, told the International Herald Tribune :

“It remains to be seen if any of these proteins they identified are useful clinically.

“This is hypothesis-generating, not hypothesis-solving. It creates a lot of work – someone has to go down each of these pathways.”

The research was led by geneticist Dr Stephen Elledge of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was working with the AIDS virus for the first time.

“I can’t even grow HIV in my lab,” he said,

Dr. Elledgehad used virus grown by another doctor, Judy Lieberman, director of the medical school’s AIDS division, who was also part of research team.

Many AIDS drugs work by targeting the HIV virus itself. In August, the US government approved sale of a drug called CCR5, the first drug that blocks an HIV dependency factor.

Scientists hope that this new and longer list of human protein will bring more effective AIDS drugs.