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article imageSynthetic polymer could stop the spread of HIV

By Tim Sandle     Sep 17, 2013 in Science
Research by a materials scientist suggests that a large molecule can be designed to mimic the binding of HIV to immune system cells. The molecule could be used to stop the virus from physically entering the body.
For the research, scientists created the large molecule with several sugar molecules (called glycopolymers). The scientists were then able to discover which sugar was the most effective in inhibiting the potential binding of the virus.
From this the researchers designed macromolecules that can compete with the HIV virus to bind to the cells in the immune system. By binding to the immune cells, the artificial molecule can theoretically block the virus from attaching and entering.
The long-term aim is to add the artificial molecule as an ingredient in a condom cream or vaginal gel to act as a physical barrier from allowing the virus into the body. To show this, several trials will be required.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Infection with HIV occurs by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk.
The research was conducted at Queen Mary University of London and published in the journal Macromolecular Rapid Communications. The paper is titled “Synthetic Glycopolypeptides as Potential Inhibitory Agents for Dendritic Cells and HIV-1 Trafficking.”
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