As cat-lovers already know, these furry playful creatures can give us a lot of love, cuddles, and companionship—but they also play a significant role in HIV research. And they continue to do with another recent scientific discovery, as Medical News Today reported last week.
The reason cats have been able to aid in this type of research is simple: cats can carry a very similar virus to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), known as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). In the past, scientists discovered that certain protein structures found in FIV are almost exactly the same as those found in some human strains, and used this knowledge in attempts to create an HIV vaccine.
However, this latest discovery of a 3-D protein structure in FIV shows great promise in helping combat drug resistance for those with the HIV-1 strain, the most common type (accounting for about 95 percent of all cases).
Study authors Akram Alian and Dr. Meytal Galilee, from the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, discovered that the protein showed resistance to antiretroviral medication. Their findings, reported in the medical journal PLOS Pathogens, are significant because it will enable researchers to study drug resistance much more efficiently.
Today, a person with HIV can live a long, healthy life thanks to antiretroviral therapy. Unfortunately, there are some people living with HIV who still may develop resistance to HIV medications. With this in mind, scientists are constantly looking for ways to develop new drugs for HIV, and Alian and Galilee believe that cats may be the key.