Secrets of a deadly virus: seven potential ways to stop HIV  pg. 2

Step 7:
During the assembly process, the viral enzyme protease (pictured here as a pair of scissors) cuts itself from one of the polyproteins, and cleaves structural proteins necessary to form a functional viral core. Drugs that inhibit the protease are an important part of current antiretroviral therapy. At Vanderbilt, two recent discoveries may lead to ways to inhibit viral particle assembly and maturation. Paul Spearman, M.D., and his colleagues have found evidence of an as-yet-undetermined cellular factor that can inhibit particle assembly and release, but which is overcome by the viral protein U (Vpu). Identifying this novel cellular factor could lead to a new way to block HIV. Meanwhile, Aiken and his colleagues are investigating a compound called DSB for its ability to prevent the protease from making an important cleavage in the polypeptide, thereby delaying virion maturation and reducing HIV's ability to infect cells. “It’s a completely novel mechanism of action for a drug,” Aiken says. “And it’s very potent; it seems to be very selective. Things like that are out there. They will just need some decision makers in industry to say, ‘Let’s go after this.’”  

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