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IISc develops artificial enzymes to block reactivation of HIV

The virus hides inside the host’s immune cells in a “latent” state and stably maintains its reservoir.

Published: 02nd April 2021 03:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd April 2021 03:54 AM   |  A+A-

HIV AIDS

For representational purposes

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have developed artificial enzymes that can successfully block reactivation and replication of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the host’s immune cells.  This can be considered as an important development as there is currently no way to eliminate HIV from a patient’s body completely. Anti-HIV drugs are only successful in suppressing the virus; they fail at eradicating HIV from infected cells. 

The virus hides inside the host’s immune cells in a “latent” state and stably maintains its reservoir. When the levels of toxic molecules such as hydrogen peroxide increase in the host’s cells, leading to a state of increased oxidative stress, the virus gets “reactivated” and it emerges from hiding and begins replicating again.  Made from vanadium pentoxide nanosheets, the new artificial “nanozymes” developed by the IISc researchers work by mimicking a natural enzyme called glutathione peroxidase that helps reduce oxidative stress levels in the host’s cells, which is required to keep the virus in check, an IISc release said.  

“The advantage is that the nanozymes are stable inside biological systems and do not mediate any unwanted reactions inside the cells,” said Govindasamy Mugesh, Professor at the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry. “They are also quite easy to prepare in the lab.”  

The study, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, was led by Amit Singh, Associate Professor and Senior Fellow, Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance at the Department of Microbiology & Cell Biology and Centre for Infectious Diseases Research (CIDR), and Mugesh.The researchers prepared ultrathin nanosheets of vanadium pentoxide in the lab and treated HIV-infected cells with them. The sheets were found to reduce hydrogen peroxide just as effectively as the natural enzyme and prevent the virus from reactivating.

Shalini Singh, first author and Research Associate at CIDR, said when the team treated immune cells from HIV-infected patients undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART) with the nanozymes, latency was induced faster and subsequent reactivation was suppressed when therapy was stopped.   


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