Researchers at the University of Alberta say they have identified the gene that could prevent HIV from replicating itself. Perhaps some day it can be used to prevent the onset of AIDS.
In lab studies, when prevented from turning to the gene TRIM22, human cells were unable to protect themselves against HIV.
"This means that TRIM22, part of the body's natural defence system, is also an essential part of our body's ability to fight off HIV," Dr. Stephen Barr, a researcher in the department of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta, said in a release issued Thursday.
Other genes in the TRIM family have also been shown to prevent viruses from replicating. TRIM5a blocks the early replication of HIV-1 while RhTRIM5a blocks late-stage HIV replication.
The scientists are now exploring how this gene can be turned on in people who cannot defend themselves against the virus.
"We hope that our research will lead to the design of new drugs and/or vaccines that can halt the person-to person transmission of HIV and the spread of the virus in the body, thereby blocking the onset of AIDS," said Barr.
He, however, acknowledged that such development could be decades away.
The study has been published in the Public Library of Science journal Pathogens.