Nowhere to hide for HIV

December 6, 2005

New findings could form the basis of an effective pharmaceutical treatment against HIV.

A possible vaccine could come from frog secretions.

New findings could form the basis of an effective pharmaceutical treatment against HIV. A team of researchers has been focusing on the specialized granular glands in the skin that produce and store packets of peptides. It was found that frogs secrete large amounts of antimicrobial peptides onto the skin surface when injured or alarmed, which have the ability to block the HIV virus.
Scientists from the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre screened 15 antimicrobial peptides from a variety of frogs to quantify the ability of each to block HIV infection of T cells, which are the immune system cells targeted by the virus. It was found that the red-eyed tree frog from Australia had the highest levels of peptides with the ability to block HIV infection through selectively killing it.
The team theorized that the peptides attacked the outer membrane of the virus creating holes that caused it to fall apart. Further tests were completed on the dendritic cells, which harbor HIV and pass it to the T cells, and it was discovered that after treatment with the peptides the virus had completely gone.
Imaging technologies are being used to verify the theory that the virus is cycling to the dendritic cell surface. This is a significant find because if the hypothesis is true then a vaccine could be generated to target HIV that is captured by dendritic cells giving the virus no hiding place.

www.mc.vanderbilt.edu