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January 11, 2008

Study Unravels Proteins Linked to HIV Progression

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have identified 273 proteins that HIV needs in order to survive in human cells, a finding that could lead to the development of new HIV/AIDS drugs, The New York Times reports (, 1/11).

The Times says the researchers, whose work was published online January 10 by Science magazine, used a new type of genetic screen to determine which proteins were necessary for HIV to reproduce. The researchers uncovered 273 human proteins—only 36 of which had been found by other methods.

Targeting human proteins could help because if drugs are developed to block them, HIV might not be able to mutate in a cell. However, the Times also reports that blocking human proteins could be dangerous to a person’s health.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has called the new research “elegant science”; however, he also said that much more work needs to be done to determine the true effects of these results, reports the Times.

“It remains to be seen if any of these proteins they identified are useful clinically,” Fauci said in the article. “This is hypothesis-generating, not hypothesis-solving. It creates a lot of work—someone has to go down each of these pathways.”

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