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[procaare] New Strategy Proposed for Fighting HIV

  • From: ProCAARE <procaare@usa.healthnet.org>
  • Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 16:35:26 -0500 (EST)

New Strategy Proposed for Fighting HIV
Reuters Health (10.24.02)

RNA interference, an ancient defense mechanism that plants and other organisms use to
fight off viruses, holds promise as a strategy for treating HIV and other diseases,
scientists report. The mechanism "has the potential to revolutionize biology," according
to Drs. Moiz Kitabwalla and Ruth M. Ruprecht of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in
Boston. Their report, "RNA Interference - A New Weapon against HIV and Beyond," was
published in the October 24 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine

In an interview, Dr. Judy Lieberman of the Center for Blood Research in Boston said RNA
interference is an "old antiviral strategy" used by plants, worms and other lower species.
Small interfering RNA, or SIRNA, degrades messenger RNA, the genetic material that
translates DNA instructions for making proteins. Researchers have also discovered that RNA
interference could work in mammal cells, she said. "We thought it would be a good idea to
harness it to combat viral infection, in particular, HIV," said Lieberman, who co-authored
a study last summer in which researchers at the Blood Research Center and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology used RNA interference to silence messenger RNA on immune cells and
HIV itself.

Kitabwalla and Ruprecht say there is a definite need for new strategies to target HIV,
since more North Americans are infected with drug-resistant strains. Besides Lieberman's
team, they said, two other teams have used RNA interference to fight HIV in the lab.

However, several obstacles need to be overcome before the strategy can be used clinically,
the report said. Getting SIRNA into cells is an inefficient process, and making sure it
remains stable inside cells will be another challenge. If these problems can be solved,
"RNA interference has implications far beyond HIV and AIDS," according to Kitabwalla and
Ruprecht, who suggest it could be used to target mutant genes in cancer cells and degrade
the messenger RNA of other viruses, including the poliovirus. But they cautioned that the
approach is "many years from clinical practice." Lieberman noted that some of the
obstacles have been overcome in yet-to-be-published studies.

[AEGiS] CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update 10/25/02 :Merritt McKinney

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