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AIDS Awareness Month: Blocking HIV Virus-Cell Interaction

December 13, 2011

Irwin Chaiken, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Drexel University College of Medicine

Every week through the month of December – AIDS Awareness Month – a Drexel University College of Medicine research study will be highlighted to showcase the important contributions our faculty are making to AIDS research. With an estimated 33.3 million individuals infected with AIDS, new research into preventing AIDS is vitally important.

Blocking HIV Virus-Cell Interaction

HIV infection is initiated by entry of the virus into a host cell, a process that depends on the fusion of the viral membrane with the membrane of the target cell. One very effective approach to preventing and potentially treating infection would be to inhibit this fusion.

Researchers in the laboratory of Irwin Chaiken, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, have found a class of compounds – peptide triazoles – that block the virus-cell interaction. Some of these compounds also have the ability to "break" and thereby inactivate the virus before it encounters a host, while leaving the human cells undisturbed. This finding could lead to prevention and treatment options at the earliest stages of HIV-1 exposure. The peptide triazoles have the ability to inhibit the virus from multiple subtypes of HIV that are globally important. So far they appear to work in all subtypes of the virus that have been tested.

Chaiken's lab has collaborated in this research with Drexel engineers as well as a multi-institutional National Institutes of Health program project team.