Researchers Find Way to Starve HIV Virus

Researchers from Northwestern and Vanderbuilt universities have recently completed a study that used an experimental compound to prevent the Human Immunodeficiency Virus from feeding. The HIV virus needs to feed on sugar and other nutrients in a person’s bloodstream in order to reproduce, so blocking the nutrient pipeline prevents the virus cells from multiplying.

Scientists found “switch” that can be used to starve HIV-infected cells

Once a person contracts the disease, the virus needs a certain type of immune cell, called the CD4+ T-cell, that is active and responds to blood pathogens. When a T-cell becomes active, its supply of sugar and other nutrients needed for cell growth increases. A cell component known as phospholipase D1 (PLD1) needs to be turned on to allow for the intake of the supply of nutrients. PLD1 wasn’t previously known to be responsible for the increase of nutrient flow upon activation. The team of scientists working on this study reasoned that blocking this cell compound would shut down the nutrient pipeline.

Experimental compound used to shut down nutrient flow and starve HIV infected cells

The researchers used an experimental compound to block PLD1 in HIV-infected cells and turn off nutrient flow. The compound prevented the virus from stealing the cells’ nutrients, which in turn basically stopped the virus from multiplying. Normally, HIV would lead to an excess of cell activation as well as to the massive growth of immune cells, which would contribute to organ damage and inflammation in HIV positive people. What is impressive about this compound is the fact that it leaves healthy cells completely alone.

Current HIV medication only suppresses virus

HIV medication that is now on the market acts by suppressing the HIV virus, but does nothing to starve the HIV virus and prevent it from multiplying. Thus, the medication still can’t prevent early organ failure and massive swelling that patients have to undergo. When administered, the experimental compound should be able to aid with these symptoms.

The newly discovered compound may also have a niche in cancer treatment, since cancer cells also have voracious appetites. Cancerous cells need huge amounts of glucose and other nutrients to grow to fuel their unchecked growth.