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HIV research paves way for groundbreaking new drugs

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New drugs could be developed for HIV sufferers after a team of scientists identified a new process in which the virus attacks the immune system.

Researchers from Montreal, Canada, found a new way in which a natural human protein was prevented from blocking the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which causes AIDS.

The protein is known as tetherin and helps fight against it.

Previous analysis showed that tetherin was at risk from viral protein U (Vpu) which aids the spread of HIV in cells.

But the team revealed Vpu also interferes with tetherin’s ability to travel to the cell’s surface, where it would usually trap viruses and prevent them infecting other cells.

Dr Eric Cohen, lead author of the study - published in PLoS Pathogens - said further examination of the process could help scientists find new drugs.

He concluded: “Further characterisation of this mechanism will improve our understanding of host antiviral defences as well as provide new targets for the development of novel anti-HIV drugs.”

Dr Marc Oullette, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Infection and Immunity, said: “We need to better understand how HIV is transmitted in order to develop new HIV prevention and treatment strategies.

“This is a very important finding by Dr Cohen’s research team.”

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