Tuesday, August 12, 2008
SMU Biological Sciences prof working on novel treatment for HIV
Robert Harrod's approach piggybacks on premature aging disease enzyme to stymie virus replication.
Turns out that 1 in 1,000 people who live in Japan are carriers of the disease known as Werner syndrome, which - when manifested - causes premature aging. And it also turns out that, among this population, none of them have been observed to develop AIDS.
This little factoid may be part of what sent Robert Harrod, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Southern Methodist University, on a research quest to determine whether the enzyme defect caused by Werner's might be used as an inhibitor for the spread of the HIV virus through the body.
Turns out he might be right. Harrod and his research team - which includes Master's student Madhu Sukumar and three bio sci undergrads - have been successful in inserting Werner syndrome enzymes into HIV-infected T-cells, with the result that 95 percent of the transcription process (which is necessary for replication) was blocked.
Research continues in an effort to isolate molecules that will inhibit Werner syndrome enzymes and - by default - viral replication. Harrod and team are collaborating (long-distance) with researchers at the University of New Mexico, Universite Libre de Bruxelles and a couple of clinical science guys at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
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