Loyola Medicine HIV is claimed to be a difficult to treat disease and novel discoveries appear to have helped scientists determine a precise target for fighting it. Researchers have laid hands on the key components of the protein known as TRIM5a that may destroy HIV in rhesus monkeys. The results of the research can possibly lead to new TRIM5a-based treatments for fighting against HIV in humans.

A previous investigation on rhesus monkeys claimed that TRIM5a safeguards these animals from HIV. It was affirmed that after the protein latches on to a HIV virus, other TRIM5a proteins accumulate and destroy the virus. This protein is also present in humans but was assumed to work in the opposite way. Instead of protecting against HIV, it seemed to guard against some other viruses. TRIM5a which may contain almost 500 amino acid subunits is predicted to be an effective therapeutic agent by the researchers. The investigation was triggered for figuring out the components in TRIM5a which allow the protein to destroy viruses.

Edward M. Campbell, PhD, of Loyola University Health System senior researcher alleged, “Scientists have been trying to develop antiviral therapies for only about 75 years. Evolution has been playing this game for millions of years, and it has identified a point of intervention that we still know very little about.”

During the investigations, experts apparently identified six individual amino acids in a very rarely known region of the TRIM5a protein. These acids were affirmed to help the protein prevent viral infection. After being altered in human cells, these amino acids may make the protein lose its ability to block HIV-1 infection. The research is being carried forward to discover an amino acid, or combination of amino acids, that enable TRIM5a to destroy HIV. By assaying these vital amino acids, researchers can probably genetically engineer TRIM5a and make it more beneficial in humans.

Understanding the mechanism may help develop drugs that mimic TRIM5a action. The research employed a wide-field ‘deconvolution’ microscope to observe that way amino acids modify the behavior of TRIM5a. Fluorescent proteins were attached to TRIM5a to make it glow. It was mentioned that the research was undertaken on cell cultures and not on rhesus monkeys. The experts at present are fluorescently labeling individual HIV viruses and measuring the microscopic interactions between HIV and TRIM5a.

The research will be published on September 15, 2010 issue of the journal Virology, and is now available online.