Can Cats Help Fight AIDS?

Cat

Cats can in fact, unfortunately, get AIDS as well.  Their version of the HIV virus, FIV, is quite similar to the HIV virus. FIV and HIV are the same shape and have the same contents. This new discovery in cats may lead to new discoveries with anti-HIV drugs.

In an article titled “Cats lend a helping paw in search for anti-HIV drugs”, the American Technion Society explains how studying FIV can help scientists discover anti-HIV drugs. FIV and HIV use a protein, integrase, which puts the virus’ DNA into an infected cell’s DNA. Scientists and Professors can now study the Feline FIV virus and its interactions with integrase within cats to figure out important reasons how this deadly protein works. Through studying FIV and integrase, an amino acid change was found that tells us how integrase builds in its primary stages. Now those scientists know about this early assembly process, and can further learn how to terminate this process all together. About 40-45% of the proteins on the amino acid level are the same between FIV and HIV, allowing them to use this discovery on the human counterpart.

The feline virus, FIV, is a lot easier to study and researchers have already found a simpler form (than its HIV counterpart). By studying their 3-D model, they found that integrase’s simple and complex backbones are almost identical. These near identical backbones allow a much easier research path in FIV that will assist similarly with HIV integrase research.

HIV_attachment

 

Image of HIV Virus working

 

FIV and HIV are almost the same in how they work, but the more simple research on the feline version of the virus and integrase will greatly help the fight against AIDS. Who would’ve thought that cats could help fight such a deadly virus?!

 

More Information:

https://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20030414/elder.html

 

Pics:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cat_Cute.JPG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CCR5_receptor_antagonist#mediaviewer/File:HIV_attachment.gif

Kid Cured from HIV

For the first time an infant was cured from HIV virus as in, the child does not have “detectable levels of virus” and there are “no signs of disease without the antiretroviral therapy.” The child’s mother with diagnosed with HIV gave birth to her child that also had HIV which was confirmed when she was born. Doctors immedietly began a regiment of a “liquid antiretroviral treatment consisting of a combination of three anti-HIV drugs: zidovudine, lamivudine, and nevirapine.” This treatment was continued for 18 months. It is also noted that by day 29 the amount of infant’s viral load had fallen to less than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (copies/mL).

HIV is spread via blood, semen and vaginal fluids and breastmilk making children with HIV infected mothers extremely susceptible to the virus. HIV is a retrovirus meaning the virus does transcription in reverse, transcribing DNA from RNA. During infection, the HIV virus attaches to a compatible receptor on the host cell’s surface. The virus  and injects its RNA and proteins into the host cell. The enzymes reverse transcriptase, integrase and protease are used to transcribe the virus from RNA to DNA and to integrate it into the host cell’s genome. The host cell then becomes a production house for the HIV virus producing the needed enzymes and genetic material to produce many more viruses. These newly formed viruses leave the cells in vesicles via exocytosis damaging the cell. This persistent damage to CD4 lymphocytes and the immune system eventually cases AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. This diagnosis is determined through the person’s blood and their CD4 count.

18 months later the treatment was discontinued for unclear reasons.” After, blood samples were taken which revealed that there were undetectable HIV levels in the child’s blood. The child continues to thrive with no detectable levels of HIV in the the body without antiretroviral therapy. What doctors and scientists have taken from this case is that if antiretroviral therapy is started on “infants who are infected with HIV through their mothers via pregnancy or delivery” it may “prevent HIV from establishing a reservoir or a hiding place.” (http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2013/03/04/toddler_functionally_cured_of_hiv_infection_nihsupported_investigators_report.html)

Can HIV finally be cured?

While the answer to this question is very broad, there is hope that the number of people living with HIV throughout the world will significantly decrease in the near future due to a toddler who was cured of the virus.

About 1000 infants are born with HIV every day, that’s about 330,000 children each year. While most of the infections are in the developing world, there is still a vast number of people living with HIV in first world countries. An example is the Mississippi mother who had no idea she had HIV until a few days before she gave birth to her baby. Once the doctors learned she was infected with the virus, they took precautionary measures to ensure they could prevent the transfer of HIV during birth, a very common way of HIV transmission along with breast feeding. Once the baby was born Dr. Hannah Gay administer three drugs to the baby within thirty hours of birth. Typically, babies born from mothers with HIV are given two drugs as a prophylactic measure, however Dr. Gay said “her standard is to use a three drug regimen to treat an infection. She did this on the infant without waiting for HIV test results” (CNN.com)

Gay believes that the timing of the drug treatment was extremely crucial, and is key to effectively treating HIV in children/newborns. Currently, researchers are trying to see if this “cure” is an anomaly for a short period of time, or if the cure is permanent. In addition, physicians and scientists are optimistic, hoping that this cure will prevent many children from living with HIV throughout the world. Although the antiviral medications are very costly, doctors believe that it is not a stretch to offer these medications in third world countries and are hoping to soon make these medications available to many clinics throughout the world, assuming the “cure” was a success.

Read more at: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/05/health/hiv-cure-global-hope/index.html?hpt=he_t3

Cute Baby
Photo By: Christopher Lance
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ninedragons/4822437519/

 

Bees and HIV

 

By PaulSteinJC. Photo from Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kapkap/2632994523/

 

30 million people have died due to AIDS.

However, a cure is yet to be found.

HIV is a retrovirus that manages to evade detection from the immune system because the virus hides in latency, incorporated into your DNA.

Instead, doctors give patients a “drug cocktail” that slows the replication and action of HIV enzymes. However, this treatment does not stop the initial infection.

A recent study had found that nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy HIV.

Bee venom contains melittin, which can “poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV,” thereby destroying the virus.

The researchers believe that this discovery can help them develop a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV.

A researcher Joshua Hood hopes “that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection.”

Hood also thinks that these nanoparticles could be used to treat existing HIV infections. The nanoparticles could be injected into the blood, clearing HIV from the blood stream.

This is truly a wonderful discovery. Hopefully, this is the first step towards ending the AIDS epidemic.

To read more about HIV visit these sites:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4831508/Bee-stings-could-prevent-the-spread-of-HIV-doctors-claim.html

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hiv-aids-4264.htm

 

A True Medical Miracle!

Baby

Flickr
Photo By: Espen Faugstad

What would you do if your newborn baby had been HIV positive? Well this sad truth was given to more then 330,000 parents last year alone. Up until now there had never been a way of curing infants with this deadly disease, but due to a new radical treatment there may be hope for these babies. Thanks to Dr. Deborah Persaud this is now a possibility. She had a patient whose baby had been born with HIV. After the child had only been alive for about 30 hours her team started an aggressive treatment with antiretroviral drugs. After months of nonstop treatment the baby was no longer HIV positive. Dr. Deborah said,”It’s proof of principle that we can cure H.I.V. infection if we can replicate this case.” Although this is a breakthrough case for HIV doctors, there are still some people who are suspicious of the results. Dr. Daniel R. Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, was quoted as saying, “The one uncertainty is really definitive evidence that the child was indeed infected.” One hypothesis of way the treatment worked for the child is that the drugs killed off the virus before it could establish a hidden reservoir in the baby’s body. One reason older people cannot be cured now is that the virus hides in a dormant state, out of reach of existing drugs. When drug therapy is stopped, the virus can emerge from hiding. Although HIV is far from being cured altogether, this new information and research is a step in the right direction of a world where no one has to die of HIV or AIDS.

For more information on this subject please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/health/for-first-time-baby-cured-of-hiv-doctors-say.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=science

 

Can we fight off AIDS?

AIDS is a tragic epidemic world wide. More than 34 million people are affected by AIDS and in 2011 alone, 1.7 million people died from AIDS. The people affected by AIDS are largely from regions in Africa and Asia, but more than one million people in the US are living with AIDS.

Obviously such a prevalent disease attracts scientists looking to help find a cure from all over the world. There have been significant advances in medications that can prevent symptoms and prolong life, but there is yet to be a cure.

A new discovery in treatment for AIDS gives hope for a long term or even permanent control over the HIV. The treatment includes a vaccine with a disabled version of the virus. The heat-inactivated version of HIV “awakens immune protection in some patients”. This means certain patients didn’t have to take their medication for weeks or even months. Thought the affects of the vaccination are temporary, this method of treatment shows promise.

Even if scientists don’t come up with a more permanent treatment for HIV in the near future, the temporary suppressing of the virus results in “knocking the virus down to extremely low levels would mean many patients wouldn’t need drugs, wouldn’t show disease symptoms and wouldn’t be likely to transmit HIV to others.” This is a significant accomplishment. It could lower the amount of people infected with AIDS world wide by stopping the transmission between people and would also improve the quality of life for AIDS infected people.

 

Sources:

main article:

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/347357/description/Inactivated_virus_shows_promise_against_HIV_

extra articles:

http://www.amfar.org/about_hiv_and_aids/facts_and_stats/statistics__worldwide/

http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/statistics/

photo:

Earth taken by Galileo after completing its first Earth Gravity Assist

The True Origins of HIV

There’s no doubt you’ve heard of HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The HIV virus, if left untreated can lead to AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, which leads to progressive immune system failure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV#Discovery). HIV didn’t become a problem in the United States until the 1980s, but was around long before then. Alfred Roca, an assistant Professor at the University of Illinois believes HIV was around for much longer than we believe.

 

The Origins 

HIV was thought to be originated from SIV, or Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, that infected Chimpanzees in Central Africa. About ninety percent of humans infected with HIV are infected with a strain called HIV-1 Type M, which was believed to have crossed the species barrier anywhere between 1884 and 1924. However, believes that HIV crossed the species barrier many times before 1884, but was most prevalent in rural areas, so it remained undetected.

 

Why it was a mystery

If HIV was around long before we initially thought, why did it remain undetected. According to Roca, “the persistence of HIV in humans requires population densities typically of larger cities that appeared in West Central Africa during the colonial period.” HIV didn’t spread amongst humans pre-1884 because the population was not dense enough. In addition, diseases spread much faster. Many people would have died early from diseases such as smallpox, and those with compromised immune systems would have been hit first, thus the disease couldn’t spread.

Map of the prevalence of HIV in the world, according to the 2008 UNAIDS Preport

Roca also believes that different strains of HIV could affect people with different genes. Using data from The Human Genome Project, Roca was able to analyze the DNA of the Biaka people, who live in the forests where the chimpanzees responsible for our current HIV pandemic reside and 4 other African populations which live outside the chimpanzees’ range. Research done in the 1980s concluded there are 26 genomic locations that help resist HIV.

The results of the research were astounding. Roca and his team identified four genes that code for proteins that affect the ability of the HIV to affect the host or the progression of the disease. Several of these genes were common among the Biaka people. Though the results aren’t definitive, they show that natural selection does play a part in the transfer of HIV to human populations, which is why the disease didn’t thrive earlier.

 

 

Antibodies to the Rescue!

Photo Credit: RambergMediaImages Flickr

 

 

HIV is an extremely dangerous virus because our own antibodies cannot effectively attack it. HIV uses a coat of sugars to hide itself from our antibodies. Although the body cannot effectively fight HIV, it does its best by making new antibodies to try and attack this powerful virus. These new antibodies attach to different spots on the sugar coating of the virus. It uses the sugar coat to bind to a site on the virus where amino acids are exposed. Then the antibody attacks the virus from that site, disabling it.

 

The discovery of this antibody and the way it binds to the virus is important because it can lead to advances in a cure and a vaccine. It gave scientists key information about binding sites made out of sugars and amino acids. They can use this information, as well as information from other projects and discoveries to make a more effective vaccine. In fact, some recent tests have shown that the antibodies play an important role in the health of someone infected with HIV.

Can timing change everything?

A Map of Cambodia: Cambodia Map from CIA World Factbook

Amongst individuals living with HIV, twenty to thirty percent die because of an additional tuberculosis infection. This co-infection is extremely common in Cambodia, a nation with 63,000 out of 13.2-million individuals living with just the HIV diagnosis, which eventually leads to AIDS. The HIV/Tuberculosis co-infection makes up 6.4% of Cambodia’s 5% HIV diagnosed population.

Dr. Anne Goldfeld, who has done studies on this trial as a Harvard Medical School employee and as President of the co- founder of the Cambodian Health Committee, says,


“Tuberculosis claims the lives of more than half a million people with HIV worldwide every year…”

 

She also says,


“This is a tragedy, because TB is completely curable when diagnosed and treated properly even in a patient with advanced HIV, especially if the patient also receives anti-retroviral therapy.”

 

In the past, the treatment for the co-infection has been very consistent. The treatment for Tuberculosis has been given to a patient immediately upon diagnosis. Two months later, anti-retroviral (ART) therapy for HIV would be given. However, recently, a trial entitled CAMELIA , >Cambodian Early versus Late Introduction of Antiretroviral Drugs, has helped give hope to HIV patients. The trial, which was created by Cambodian, French, and

 

American doctors, began in 2006 and lasted until 2010, encouraged five Cambodian hospitals to give HIV treatment to co-infected diagnosed patients only two short weeks following anti-tuberculosis treatment. The five hospitals are Calmette Hospital, Khmero-Soviet Friendship Hospital, and three provincial hospitals in the Siem Reap, Svay Rieng, and Takeo regions. This trial cut down the waiting time for HIV treatment by six weeks and overtime, the trial increased the survival rate of co-infected individuals by 33%.  Could six weeks really change the chance of survival for tuberculosis and HIV co-infected patients by such a great percentage? The answer is: absolutely! Did all medical physicians involved in this field of medicine agree with these techniques used to aid co-infected individuals? The answer is: definitely not.

 

Many of those who were opposed to the trial’s process said that the two treatments of Tuberculosis and the HIV  would wear the body down if done at similar times. Additional difficulties could be created for the body, which could already face toxicity with the required seven pills a day. The treatment was not risk-free either. It was possible that the immune system could become increasingly inflamed as it “rebound[ed] from HIV’s suppressive influence.” This trial was also available to patients who had an extremely strong immune system (given their diagnosis) at the time of treatment. Nevertheless, the benefits of the treatment have been much greater and more substantial than those doctors’ fears holding co-infected individuals from getting treated.

Doctors are still learning how the CAMELIA treatment can be improved and altered for the future. However, there has been enormous success with moving the treatments of co – infected Tuberculosis and HIV patients closer by six weeks. In just Cambodia, 661 patients participated in the CAMELIA trial, and less than one percent of the population participating, missed an appointment of the 8,955 scheduled for the population at the five separate hospitals. Many doctors, Cambodian citizens, and observers wanted this trial to work, and it was happening! The World Health Organization (WHO) should be encouraging this treatment more! Thirty three more percent of the initially co-infected patients of Cambodia are living! So where will the trial go next to help co – infected Tuberculosis and HIV patients? Ethiopia.

Gamers solve some of biology’s most difficult riddles?

Who is solving some of biology’s most difficult puzzles and riddles? Obviously scientists, right? Think again. It’s the gamers.

An article recently reported that a revolutionary online game called Foldit, allows anyone, from gamers to students, to help predict the foldings and structures of  various proteins by playing competitively online. Protein folding is one of biology’s most difficult and costly problems, and is even a troublesome task for the most capable computers. A game such as Foldit requires much insight and an intuitive understanding to fold the proteins, allowing human intuition to triumph over a computer’s calculations. As we have learned in class, proteins are very prevalent in the human body. Hormones, enzymes, and antibodies are all examples of proteins, but many proteins are also associated with strands of viruses and diseases.

This is where you, as the gamers, come into the picture.

Since proteins play a large role in the functions of viruses and diseases, gamers playing Foldit can help design new proteins to help treat or provide a cure for the condition. The article reported that gamers have most recently solved the structure of an enzyme crucial for the reproduction of the AIDS virus. Knowing the structure, scientists are now able to find certain drugs to neutralize the enzyme and stop the reproduction of AIDS virus.

In class, we have learned that there is basically an infinite amount of combinations of proteins; there are 20 amino acids and can be combined to form chains of various lengths. We have also learned that the structure of a protein is also correlated with its function. The bonds present in the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures of proteins are an important part to the shape and folds of a protein, giving the protein certain properties due to its shape. All of the information we have learned about proteins in our AP Biology class, can be seen and easily applied to the game, Foldit.

Now since we know the vital importance of proteins, do you want contribute to the next cure for a virus or disease? Get your game on and try Foldit out and see what you can do to solve some of biology’s most difficult riddles!