HIV Prevention Through Tobacco?
BY Trudy Ring
August 01 2009 12:00 AM ET
Using a relative of the tobacco plant, researchers in Kentucky have developed an inexpensive means of inhibiting HIV transmission that has the potential to be used in a vaginal microbicide, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers cultivated the tobacco-like plant to produce large amounts of the protein griffithsin. During sexual activity, the protein can prevent HIV from entering immune-system cells. A petri dish test that used cervical tissue showed the protein interfered with HIV transmission without irritating the tissue. A vaginal gel using the protein could be as cheap as a condom, said Kenneth Palmer, senior scientist at the University of Louisville and leader of the study team. If such a gel performs well in clinical trials, it could be available by 2015, researchers said, adding that it would be particularly valuable in developing countries.
The team also included participants from the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, the National Cancer Institute, Duke University, the University of London, and biotechnology companies Intrucept Biomedicine and Kentucky Bioprocessing.