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HIV-Blocking Gene Breakthrough
      #37149 - 07/17/02 04:08 AM

Researchers in HIV-Blocking Gene Breakthrough
Sun Jul 14, 3:35 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - AIDS ( news - web sites) researchers declared a breakthrough Sunday with the discovery of a naturally occurring gene that effectively blocks the disease's progress.

Anglo-U.S. research teams at London's King's College and the Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that a gene called CEM15 acted as a brake on the Human ImmunoVirus's development but was itself blocked by a protein called vif.

Biologically tying the hands of the protein -- virion infectivity factor (vif)-- carried by the HIV ( news - web sites) allowed CEM15 to get to work and stop the virus replicating, the research, published in the online edition of Nature magazine said.

Michael Malim, head of infectious diseases at King's College, told Reuters the discovery of the roles of vif and CEM15 was a major step forward in the fight against the global AIDS pandemic.

"It is a breakthrough in discovering what vif does. This is very important news," he said by telephone.

"What we need to do now is find out how to handcuff vif and let CEM15 do its work. The trouble is that not many people work in this area, so progress may not be fast," he added.

Malim said he hoped the discovery would spark renewed interest in the area which could speed up research.

"These are very significant findings and could open the door to new treatments for HIV/AIDS in the future," he said.

But even so, Malim estimated that at best it would take at least a decade before any treatment based on vif-inhibitors would get to clinical trials.

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