Researchers ID Roadblock to HIV Infection

Protein prevents virus from replicating in certain white blood cells.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have found a way to keep HIV from infecting a certain class of white blood cells.

The key is a specific protein called SAMHD1, which is part of the nucleic acid sensing machinery within the body's own immune system. It keeps cells from turning on their own nucleic acids.

According to researchers, this protein can also prevent the HIV virus from replicating inside certain white blood cells by effectively interfering with the production of viral nucleic acids.

"The identification of SAMHD1 and its function may help to explain why some infected individuals can control HIV infection better than others," says lead researcher Jacek Skowronski, PhD. "Ultimately, it could also provide a basis for conceiving new therapies and treatment approaches to block HIV infection and/or its replication in infected individuals, and to stimulate the body's own immune response to HIV."

The findings were published in the June 30 issue of Nature. Skowronski led the team at Case Western Reserve, collaborating with a research group led by Michael P. Washburn, PhD, at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City.