A molecule that mimics a particular kind of protein has been demonstrated by a new study to render HIV vulnerable to antibodies that could kill infected cells, Medical News Today reports.
Researchers from the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) Research Centre in Canada have described the molecule in question, JP-III-48, as acting like a “can opener” due to the way that it forces the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to open up and expose its vulnerable parts.
Study author Andrés Finzi, a professor at the University of Montreal, states the team also found that people infected with HIV-1 virus have naturally occurring antibodies with the potential to kill infected cells.
“We just have to give them a little push by adding a tiny molecule that acts as a can opener to force the viral envelope to expose regions recognized by the antibodies, which forms a bridge with some cells of the immune system, initiating the attack,” Prof. Finzi explains.
The development of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection has long been a goal of researchers. At present, antiretroviral drugs are used to slow the virus down but they are unable to prevent the formation of HIV “reservoirs” – areas where the virus remains hidden and dormant within cells. As soon as antiretroviral treatment ends, the virus returns.