We’ve Finally Cracked the Outer Layer of HIV

We’ve Finally Cracked the Outer Layer of HIV/AIDS

A group of scientists from the UK, the U.S. and Australia have managed to solve the structure of the outer layer of the HIV/AIDS virus. The scientists now believe that this will help to find a cure for not just HIV, but for other viral infections as well.

A new research stands as a blueprint for creating new therapies to target the HIV/AIDS virus. Scientists from the University of Oxford, University of Delaware, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Sydney School of Medical Sciences and the University of Melbourne have managed together to detect the structure of the outer layer surrounding HIV’s genetic material, called the capsid. The capsid is a key element of the virus because it’s used for protection of the virus, and also plays essential roles in early stage replication and transport inside the virus.

The scientists came up with a new technique using pore-forming toxins, replacing the steps which cause changes to the capsid. They managed to finally uncover this structure in HIV on its own, as well as how it interacted with other molecules in the environment. Understanding how these elements keep the capsid in its stable state opens possible avenues for targeted several forms of viral treatments.

The new findings were detected thanks to a use of a special electron tomography and subtomogram averaging at Diamond’s electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC).

“Despite the global efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and the achievement of antiviral treatments, there are still approximately 38 million people with HIV/AIDS with no complete cure so far,” said lead author Dr. Tao Ni from the University of Oxford

Prof. Peijun Zhang, who made significant contributions to SARS-CoV-2 Covid-19 research for vaccines and antivirals, led this research as well.  “In collaboration with Prof. Juan Perilla’s group in the University of Delaware, using information derived from electron tomography, we also built an atomistic model of the whole HIV capsid which could serve as a blueprint for the development of capsid-targeting antivirals,” Prof. Zhang concludes. “The perforation of the enveloped virus membrane also provides a novel approach to study host-virus interaction for other viral systems.”