February 26, 2004
Humans carry 37 types of TRIM proteins, including TRIM5-alpha, the Chronicle reports. Researchers have yet to identify the function for most of the proteins, but the proteins appear to be "naturally evolved" to fight viruses that contain RNA, the main genetic component of HIV, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/26). Previous studies have shown that the human version of TRIM5-alpha is 87% identical to the monkey version of the protein, and further research will be needed to examine why the monkey version blocks HIV but the human version does not. Sodroski said, "If we can just potentiate the protein to make up the difference, it might be possible to block transmission or treat infected people" (Tasker, Miami Herald, 2/26). He added, "We're still trying to understand exactly how it works." In an accompanying commentary, Columbia University molecular biologist Stephen Goff said that after the mechanisms of TRIM5-alpha are known, "the next goal will be to recreate its effects in a therapeutic treatment" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/26). Sodroski said, "We expect that now that we've identified this protein factor, it is likely we'll find ways to manipulate it and increase its potency and we hope to stimulate our own natural resistance to HIV by doing so" (AP/Washington Times, 2/26).
Keith Alcorn, editor of the Web site aidsmap.com, said, "There are two possible avenues for developing a treatment based on this discovery. One is to boost the human body's own production of this protein, the other is to make a copy that can be given as a medicine" (BBC News, 2/25). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said, "Identification of this HIV-blocking factor opens new avenues for intervening in the early stage of HIV infection, before the virus can gain a toehold. Basic discoveries like this provide the scientific springboard to future improvements in therapies for HIV disease" (Reaney, Reuters, 2/25). Carl Dieffenbach, director of basic science research for AIDS at NIH, said, "This will go immediately in about 15 different directions," adding, "This has been an amazing year in basic research and now we've got this. We're very rich with results, and we've got a lot to work on" (Miami Herald, 2/26). The research was funded by grants from NIAID, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the Center for AIDS Research of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Children's Hospital Boston (Wall Street Journal, 2/26).
To read the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases's press release on this study, click here.
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2003 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.