Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Hope in the fight against HIV

Even as the number of HIV cases rises in the south and in our state, especially in rural areas among the African American Population, one Houston Scientist declares that a probable hurdle has just been leaped in efforts to combat the disease.

Sudhir Paul, Ph.D.
of the UT-Houston Medical School has announced that an amino acid sectional of the virus' protein envelope (gp120), AA421-433, has been determined to be the "Achilles heel" of the virus. This particular section of protein and strand of amino acids do not mutate as the rest of the virus does because it's through this particular structure that the virus attaches itself to the host cell in order to infect. Dr. Paul from Science Daily,

Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells. If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells. Equally important, HIV does not want this constant region to provoke the body’s defense system. So, HIV uses the same constant cellular attachment site to silence B lymphocytes - the antibody producing cells. The result is that the body is fooled into making abundant antibodies to the changeable regions of HIV but not to its cellular attachment site. Immunologists call such regions super antigens. HIV’s cleverness is unmatched. No other virus uses this trick to evade the body’s defenses.
The doctor has found a way to neutralize that particular patch of protein using an abzyme. A bold new discovery but one that blogger Dan Savage reminds us to remain cautionary about, considering our efforts thus far, including one vaccine that ended as a bust. His more sobering prescription for our society is hindsight:

We’ve been down this road before—Achilles’ heels located, targeted, hopes raised, and then… back to the ol’ drawing boards. These researchers say they’re at least five years away from any treatment for people with HIV, so let’s not go out and stick our asses in the air just yet, boys, okay? And remember: Even if we do one day have a vaccine or an effective treatment for HIV, recreating the gay communal-sewer sex culture of the ’70s is a Very Bad Idea. One important lesson—one of the top lessons—of the AIDS epidemic is this: Given the right conditions, new sexually transmitted infections can emerge and kill you and all your friends.

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