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Targeting host genes for therapy

Nature volume 540, page 487 (22 December 2016) | Download Citation

By inactivating any one of five human genes, scientists can prevent HIV from entering and growing in immune cells.

Antiviral therapies targeting host genes that the virus depends on, rather than targeting the virus itself, are promising because these genes do not mutate as frequently as viruses do. This could avoid the development of drug resistance. Bruce Walker at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues screened the genome of human T cells and identified five genes not essential to cell survival whose inactivation protected cells from HIV infection. Cultured cells lacking these genes resisted HIV infection. The genes encode proteins that facilitate virus entry into human cells, and one that mediates cell aggregation, which allows the virus to spread between cells.

The authors say their approach could also be used to find drug targets for other pandemic viruses.

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