December 7, 2009
Early roots of the virus that causes AIDS might be found in a tiger that lived thousands or millions of years ago, new research suggests.
It appears the virus took on a bit of a tiger's genetic material, scientists say, and a remnant of that cat remains in the virus to this day. That tiger, in fact, may have bitten a monkey, setting off an evolution of the virus that ultimately led to its infection of humans. The finding shouldn't lead to any immediate breakthroughs in AIDS treatment, experts say. But it does provide more insight into how the virus works.
Unless you really understand how these viruses work, the exact step-by-step chemical process, then you can't really rationally design a new clever kind of therapy that may be effective against the virus,explained study co-author Robert Bambara, Ph.D., Chairman of the University of Rochester's Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
December 6, 2009
An ancestor of the AIDS virus hijacked an entire gene, perhaps from some prehistoric cat it had infected, a gene that makes it much better able to infect humans, according to a study published online today in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. The discovery represents the first instance in which researchers have found an entire animal gene within the genome of the human immunodeficiency virus despite 30 years of intense analyses.
HIV molecular biology is the most studied in history, which makes it remarkable that the presence of an entire copy of this gene, called tRNALys3, could go undiscovered within the HIV genome for decades,said Robert Bambara, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and the study's lead author.
We not only found the gene, but also a plausible explanation for why it is still there after millions of generations: its presence makes HIV dramatically better at reproducing inside of our cells. This suggests new ways to shut down with drugs the ability of the virus to mass produce copies of itself.