One of the most dreaded diseases to haunt the human race, AIDS has continued to mock the field of medicine in its own fashion. No one has been able to combat it entirely. But a promising attempt has emerged from a team of researchers at the University of Utah.
HIV, the variable virus responsible for causing AIDS, is covered by a chain of sugar-carbohydrate molecules, which, unlike the highly variable virus, remain constant. This sugary coating also helps the HIV hide from the body’s immune system.
The University of Utah researchers have discovered an entirely new class of compounds that can cloak this chain of sugar molecules, and these compounds are now being viewed as a promising new vaccine for AIDS, especially to prevent sexual transmission of the virus. Results show that the new class of compounds can stick to the sugar-carbohydrate layer of HIV so as to prevent it from infecting cells.
HIV first enters the cells of the target organism and thereafter takes charge of the replication machinery of cells to make copies of itself. Replications of HIV cells in turn infect other cells, thus completing a cycle of viral entry and viral replication.
Until now, most clinical trials have been focused towards the mechanism involved in viral replication. And little has been achieved either to inactivate the virus or prevent it from interacting with the cells. Hence, the results of the research from the University of Utah are a positive leap from previous research in this field the world over.
So, what material is doing the wonder?
The cloak employed to cover the sugar coating of HIV was synthetically made and is similar in many respects to a group of molecules known as “lectins.” Natural lectins are molecules that have the ability to interact with and bind to specific sugars. The artificially made lectins are based on a compound called benzoboroxole, or BzB, which also shows the specific property of forming bonds with sugars found on the HIV envelope. To make these bonds stronger, the researchers developed polymers of these lectins to provide multiple BzB binding sites.
Yes, these are early results; however, let’s hope this does not turn out to be just one among the many forgotten stories of research to combat AIDS.