Researchers at Loyola University in Maryland have made a potentially shattering discovery: a protein called TRIM5a can destroy HIV in rhesus monkeys.According to an article on the Kurzweil news site, "TRIM5a-based treatments [could] knock out HIV in humans."
According to the article, researchers have been working with the protein since 2004 and found that TRIM5a first latches on to the virus and other proteins "gang up and destroy the virus." The protein is also found in humans but does not protect against HIV the way it does against other viruses. The article mentions that the new task is to "turn TRIM5a into an effective therapeutic agent."
The Loyola researchers have identified six individual amino acids on the TRIM5a protein that help the protein "inhibit viral infection," according to the story. By altering these specific amino acids, the researchers saw that the protein could then no longer block HIV infection, telling them that these specific proteins were crucial to the process. The article points out that the study at Loyola did not use actual rhesus monkeys but cell cultures instead.
Using "deconvolution" microscopes and fluorescently dyed proteins, the researchers are observing the proteins and amino acids at work and measuring their microscopic interactions. The next step for the researchers is to identify amino acids or combinations that can help human TRIM5a destroy HIV.