The protein, TRIM5-alpha, has been shown to
intervene in the early stages of HIV in monkeys, but similar
proteins in humans do not have the same effect. The study by
scientist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute first appeared
in the Feb. 26 issue of Nature.
The research team, lead by Dr. Joseph Sodroski, professor of
pathology at Harvard Medical School, found that when HIV enters
the cell, the protein prevents it from being written into DNA.
They identified this step of the process to be crucial for the
virus to replicate in the body. Without this step, the virus
is not successful at infecting monkeys.
Whether the protein will have any medicinal or clinical use
for humans remains to be known. National Institute of Health
Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “Identification of this HIV-blocking
factor opens new avenues for intervening in the early stage of
HIV infection, before the virus can gain a toehold.”
Researchers now plan to identify why the human version of TRIM5-alpha
is so ineffective at stopping HIV. “Finding that humans
have a TRIM5-alpha gene gives us a foundation for thinking of
ways to make it more potent, perhaps stimulate our own defenses
to HIV,” Sodroski said.
Sodorski also says it may be possible use of the protein in
gene therapy. By introducing TRIM5-alpha into people infected
Sodorski believes that it may bear cells immune to HIV. There
would be no problem with introducing foreign proteins into humans,
Sodroski claimed, since the human and monkey versions are nearly
identical—the only difference being their effectiveness.
We are far from applications, but we are beginning to appreciate
the potential of these kinds of genes,” Sodroski said. “This
discovery will lay the foundation for a lot of creative thinking
to find ways to manipulating this protein for prevention and
Source: National Institute of Health, www.nih.gov
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute,www.dfci.harvard.ed