AUSTRALIAN researchers have moved a step closer to finding a cure for HIV by successfully luring the dormant virus out of hiding in infected cells‚ Monash University said on Tuesday (12/03/2013).
"New research has shown how the cancer drug vorinostat is able to ‘wake up’ the sleeping virus that silently persists in patients on standard HIV treatment by altering how HIV genes are turned on and off‚” the university said.
Prof Sharon Lewin‚ head of the university’s infectious diseases department and director of the infectious diseases unit at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne‚ said the trial results were promising and would inform further studies into curing HIV.
"We know the virus can hide in cells and remain out of reach from conventional HIV therapies and the immune system‚” said Prof Lewin‚ who also co-heads the centre for virology at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne. "Anti-HIV drugs are unable to eradicate the virus because it burrows deeply into the DNA of immune cells‚ where it gets stuck and goes to sleep.”
Anti-HIV drugs are effective in keeping people healthy‚ but cannot eliminate a dormant virus. "We wanted to see if we could wake the virus up‚ and using vorinostat we have successfully done that‚” she said.
Twenty HIV-positive patients in Victoria‚ Australia‚ were the first in the world to participate in the vorinostat trial.
"This is a very important step‚ but the results of the trial have raised further questions‚” said Prof Lewin. "We’ve shown we can wake up the virus. Now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell. A kick-start to the immune system might help.”
Prof Lewin said there was an enormous amount still to learn about how to eradicate a "very smart virus”.
Last year‚ she and her team discovered how the virus‚ which has infected more than 30-million people worldwide‚ lay dormant in infected cells‚ placing it out of the reach of conventional treatments and the immune system.
The research is a collaboration between Monash University‚ the Burnet Institute‚ the Alfred Hospital‚ the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the National Association of People Living with HIV/Aids.
The research was presented at the 20th Annual Conference on Retrovirus and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta in the US. - Sapa