UC Davis scientists make headway in HIV fight

UC Davis scientists make headway in HIV fight.
UC Davis scientists make headway in HIV fight. | Courtesy of
A team of scientists at UC Davis recently identified a specific compound that wakes up latent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in order to tease the virus out of hiding and then destroy it.

"We are excited to have identified an outstanding candidate for HIV reactivation and eradication that is already approved and is being used in patients," Satya Dandekar, lead author who chairs the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, said. "This molecule has great potential to advance into translational and clinical studies."

Highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has helped to treat millions of HIV infections.

"We've made great progress, but at the end of the day you still have more than 30 million people walking around with HIV," Dandekar said. "Without drugs, the virus can come back at the same threat level for patients. Eradicating HIV is extremely critical."

Unfortunately, HIV’s built-in survival mechanism involves creating latent reservoirs of the virus.

"First, we need to identify the best combination of latency-activating agents," Dandekar said. "Then we must help patients clear these reactivated cells. Just reactivating the HIV from latency won't be enough."

These reservoirs are invisible to the immune system and to HAART.

"It is really exciting is that the molecule in PICATO is already approved and being used by patients," Dandekar said. "In addition to being very effective in reactivating HIV, it also works beautifully with other latency reactivating agents, is less cytotoxic and doesn't cause a major immune response."

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University of California, Davis

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