While there are many methods to prevent transmission of HIV, scientists have now claimed that a new vaginal cream containing a reawakened protein could someday prevent the transfer of the deadly virus.
Researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando have revived a dormant gene found in humans and coaxed it to produce retrocyclin-a protein that resists HIV.
In the study, led by Alexander Cole, researchers used aminoglycosides- drugs commonly used to fight bacterial infections- to trigger the production of the sleeping protein expressed by the retrocyclin gene.
"It could make a huge difference in the fight against HIV. Much more work would be needed to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of this approach. We would certainly have to have human trials, but these findings represent a promising step in that direction," said Cole. Cole embarked on his three-year investigation while he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, and discovered that similar retrocyclin proteins found in early primates appeared to prevent HIV infections in cell cultures.
Although the same gene exists in humans, but because of a mutation, it no longer produces the protein.
And now, Cole's team has found that restoring the production of retrocyclins prevents HIV entry.
They found a way to get the gene to produce the retrocyclins and then showed that the retrocyclins appear to prevent the transmission of HIV.
They then applied aminoglycoside antibiotics to vaginal tissues and cervical cells in the lab and found that the antibiotic appears to stimulate those cells and tissues to produce retrocyclins on their own.
He is positive that the aminoglycoside antibiotics could be used in a cream or gel format that could someday be a simple way to prevent the transmission of HIV from men to women.
The findings of the study have been published in this month's PLOS Biology, a well-respected scientific journal.