Synthetic Superstar?

BY HIV Plus Editors

October 28 2009 11:00 PM ET

If researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are right, it might be possible to devise a preventive HIV vaccine that doesn't rely on the body's immune system at all. In the September 1 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists reported having developed synthetic protein-like molecules that block the normal chemical communication that occurs between viral and human proteins during the infection process. Specifically, the syn'thetic molecules, called foldamer proteins, target HIV's gp41 protein, which plays a crucial role in the virus's ability to attach to and penetrate immune system cells. Lab tests showed that the molecules completely prevented HIV from infecting immune system cells.

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