In a major breakthrough, scientists have identified a new gene that may have the ability to prevent HIV from spreading after the virus enters the body.
The study led by King’s College London is the first to identify a role for the human MX2 gene in inhibiting Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to fatal disease AIDS.
According to the researchers, this gene could be a new target for effective, less toxic treatments where the body’s own natural defence system is mobilized against the deadly virus.
The scientists carried out experiments on human cells after introducing the HIV to two different cell lines and observed the effects.
In one cell line the MX2 gene was introduced while in another it was absent. In the cells where the MX2 gene was expressed, the virus was not able to replicate and new viruses were not produced. The scientists observed that in the cells where MX2 was silenced, the virus replicated and spread.
“This is an extremely exciting finding which advances our understanding of how HIV virus interacts with the immune system and opens up opportunities to develop new therapies to treat the disease. Until now we knew very little about the MX2 gene, but now we recognize both its potent anti-viral function and a key point of vulnerability in the life cycle of HIV,” Professor Mike Malim at the Department of Infectious Diseases, King’s College London said.
The study was published in journal Nature.