Blood-thinning drug increases understanding of HIV natural barrier
During the first stage of HIV contamination, the protein langerin becomes a natural HIV barrier. This protein interacts with heparin, a blood-thinning drug.
UEA researchers have identified two mechanisms for the interaction between the drug heparin and the natural HIV barrier. These two mechanisms include different sites in the langerin protein.
"Langerin is produced by immune cells which are present in genital mucous,” UEA’s lead researcher Jesus Angulo said. “They constitute the first obstacle that the HIV virus finds in its way to infecting someone.”
Heparin, which is widely used as an anticoagulant agent to prevent the formation of blood clots, occurs naturally in the body with different compositions to surround our cells.
“Langerin-heparin interactions are thought to be important in the degradation of the HIV virus,” Angulo said. “The way that heparin interacts with langerin is important because it is thought to stabilize the formation of granules that facilitates the elimination of HIV particles.
“This is a basic research study providing structural details of a potentially relevant interaction in a known natural barrier to HIV," Angulo said. "Yet, of course, it doesn't mean that taking heparin or other anticoagulant drugs will protect people from HIV. The ultimate aim of this line of research is to develop drugs that inhibit the HIV cellular receptors that facilitate infection, without inhibiting, or even better boosting, the activity of langerin. This is obviously a long-term goal towards which this research is providing significant initial steps."