New study finds potential alternative treatment for HIV

A new study conducted by George Mason University researchers recently discovered a compound in soybeans that could prove useful in a HIV treatment that overrides drug resistance problems common with current treatment methods.

The soybean compound, called genistein, shows the ability to block the HIV virus's ability to infect cells according to Yuntao Wu, a professor from the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Molecular and Microbiology who is involved in the study.

Genistein is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks the signals a cell's surface sends to its interior. Normally, the sensors on the cell's surface will tell the rest of the cell and other cells about the environment.

The HIV virus typically works by 'tricking' a cell's sensors to allow it inside of the cell. Once inside, the virus changes the structure of the cell and begins spreading infection.

Since Genistein is a natural inhibitor, Wu and his team are hopeful they can base an HIV treatment drug off of its processes.

"Instead of directly acting on the virus, genistein interferes with the cellular processes that are necessary for the virus to infect cells," Wu said. "Thus, it makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to the drug. Our study is currently it its early stage. If clinically proven effective, genistein may be used as a complement treatment for HIV infection."

The research holds a lot of promise for the future of HIV treatment. Genistein is plant-derived and has the potential to overcome drug toxicity caused by the multitude of drugs a HIV patient must take. Since genistein functions differently than antiretrovirual drugs, it may also be able to overcome drug resistance issues traditional drugs cause.

The sequestration has cut funding to the George Mason researchers, elongating the research process. Wu and his team, however, have become creative and begun raising money with fundraisers such as the NYC DC Aids Research Ride, which was conducted a few years ago.