Part of the show Forensic anthropology, and Facial Reconstruction - Naked Scientists
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in the USA may have discovered a new way to tackle the problem of HIV, by increasing the levels of a substance called manganese in infected cells. Manganese is found naturally in cells, but high levels of the metal stop a key enzyme from working, called reverse transcriptase, that the virus uses to make new copies of its genetic material. Many of the drugs that we currently use to treat HIV work by stopping this enzyme, reverse transcriptase, but the virus quite quickly adapts to get around the problem. But, by hitting the virus from several different angles simultaneously it is much harder for it to adapt, so the discoverers of this new finding, Eric Bolton and his colleagues at Hopkins, feel that drugs that can boost the levels of manganese in cells offer a powerful new way to tackle the continuing problem of HIV. Encouragingly, the cells that they used for their experiments, with high levels of manganese, looked healthy, suggesting that high manganese levels don't harm cells unduly.