Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => Physiology & Medicine => Topic started by: thedoc on 31/01/2013 12:31:01

Title: Do viruses hold the key to their own undoing?
Post by: thedoc on 31/01/2013 12:31:01
Studying a substance produced by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) has revealed a powerful new therapeutic anti-viral avenue.

Read the whole story on our  website by clicking here (http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/news-archive/news/1000064/)

  
Title: Re: Do viruses hold the key to their own undoing?
Post by: CliffordK on 31/01/2013 14:32:40
It sounds a lot like computer viruses which are often programmed to disable the antivirus programs. 

So, the idea is to flood the cells with this binding site, giving the virus false targets to bind to?  Assuming that one can get the protein fragments into the cells.

Perhaps also non protein drugs could be produced to bind this viral protein.

If this one protein is so critical for pathogens to bind to, I could imagine an approach to gene therapy in which the protein itself is altered, and thus the diseases that attack that protein would need to re-evolve to attack the modified protein.  Potentially it could make humans or livestock much more disease resistant.

Would there be a version of the beclin-1protein/gene from other animals, perhaps even non-mammals that would be equally effective, but difficult for human or livestock diseases to attack, without bringing in the risk of more zoonotic diseases?  And, thus one could splice the different version of the gene into the genome.
Title: Re: Do viruses hold the key to their own undoing?
Post by: schneebfloob on 31/01/2013 18:22:06
"The Texas-based team discovered that the HIV-1 Nef locks onto just one part of the beclin-1 protein, so they produced a soluble, synthetic version of this small region."

Whilst this is really interesting I can't help but wonder how long it will take HIV to worm its way around this. It binds to a 'small region' of a protein receptor. How long until it mutates to bind to a different region of the same protein? This is obviously having a direct impact on the survival of HIV, it will introduce a selection pressure and HIV is extremely responsive to such things.
Title: Re: Do viruses hold the key to their own undoing?
Post by: CliffordK on 31/01/2013 18:39:11
It might,
However, that may mean that the virus would have to develop a whole new protein from scratch for the new binding site, something that would not be easy to do.

That would not be nearly as easy for the virus to do as modifying one of its own proteins so that it is no longer a target for a drug.

In fact, that would be an advantage of using natural proteins to make the fake receptors as it would be impossible to for the virus to differentiate between the real and fake receptors.  If a drug was used to block the HIV-1 Nef binding agent, then it might be possible for the HIV-1 Nef to curcumvent the drug and still bind to beclin-1.

Another possible adaptation would be for the virus to start over-producing its receptor blocker to overwhelm the "fake" receptors.
Title: Re: Do viruses hold the key to their own undoing?
Post by: chris on 19/02/2013 20:45:48
Actually, it's more clever than that; because the virus is switching down the rate of autophagy within the cell by deactivating an activating molecule. What the beclin-derivative peptide does is de-repress the autophagy rate, increasing the processing and virus dismantling. So it a positive effect on cell physiology, rather than a direct anti-viral effect.