Newly Developed Protein Drug Shows Promise In Suppressing And Maybe Even Eradicating HIV Infection
A new potential medication that works with an HIV-infected person's own body to further suppress the ever present but silent virus that available HIV treatments are unable to combat has been discovered by a team of medical scientist from University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
In an exclusive interview with Thailand Medical News, lead author Assistant Professor Haito Hu commented, "We are the first to show that human BRD4 protein and its associated functions can be harnessed to suppress dormant HIV. Our discovery is exciting because it not only improves our understanding of the biology of HIV epigenetic regulation, it also presents a promising approach for the development of therapeutic agents for HIV silencing, hopefully leading to cure and permanent eradication of the virus eventually."
Besides being a potential candidate to complement the current HIV anti-retroviral therapy (ART) medications, the drug (synthesized to resemble the original protein found in humans.) it may also be possible that it could lead to HIV remission without a lifetime of taking ART medications. More clinical studies and trials will be underway soon to explore this.
The HIV virus gets integrated into the infected individual's genetic coding and establishes a constant dormant infection, creating a big treatment challenge. Because of this, current ART medications fail to cure or eradicate the virus from a infected human body and when someone stops the drug, the virus almost always begins to multiply and wreak havoc. Drug resistance is also a public health issue with the ART medications. Being able to induce a sustained HIV remission free of ART is an important and ultimate goal for HIV treat
The team found in a laboratory study that the protein BRD4 plays a crucial and important role in regulating the production of new copies of the HIV gene. The researchers successfully designed, synthesized and evaluated a series of small molecules to selectively program BRD4 to suppress HIV and identified a lead compound called ZL0580. The team tested the lead molecule in HIV infection models and found that it significantly delayed dormant HIV reactivation after ART cessation in blood cells of ART-treated, HIV infected individuals.
The team will continue to optimize the chemical structure and effectiveness of this class of molecules and conduct safety testing in cellular and animal studies and expect clinical trials to start soon.
Reference: Qingli Niu et al. Structure-guided drug design identifies a BRD4-selective small molecule that suppresses HIV, Journal of Clinical Investigation (2019). DOI: 10.1172/JCI120633