Some researchers are taking a different tack: rather than attacking the virus itself, they're targeting the cells that HIV infects.
In a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by National Human Genome Research Institute cell biologist Pamela Schwartzberg turned off a protein that helps mobilize immune system cells against infection.
Once T-cells were stripped of the protein, HIV couldn't get traction: the signaling pathways it normally exploits to invade a cell and copy itself were short-circuited.
ITK, though targeted by some drug companies for its role in asthma and allergies, "has not been really thought about in the context of HIV," said Schwartzberg. "The work provides a model for finding novel targets that can affect HIV replication."
Selective Targeting of ITK blocks multiple steps of HIV Replication [PNAS]
Image: Courtesy of the Institut Cochin, a T-cell (blue) and a dendritic cell (yellow). The latter help calibrate immune response.