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article imageNew, lower cost HIV drug developed

By Tim Sandle     Feb 6, 2016 in Science
A new, more affordable, and clinically effective drug is being developed to treat patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The drug has been developed at the University of Minnesota.
The new candidate drug is RNA-based. This makes it different from other anti-HIV drugs, which tends to be DNA based. In terms of the similarities and differences between single-stranded RNA and double-stranded DNA, both carry genetic information. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, while RNA is ribonucleic acid. They have different functions: DNA stores and transfers genetic information; RNA directly codes for amino acids and as acts as a messenger between DNA and ribosomes to manufacture proteins.
The new drug is called 5-azacytidine. The drug functions by keeping the virus in suspension. As well as appearing to be clinically effective, the new drug can be produced at a far lower cost than commercially available DNA-based drugs.
The drug functions by working against the mechanism HIV uses to replicate. HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus. This class of viruses converted their RNA genome into DNA. With the 5-azacytidine drug, HIV converts the RNA-based 5-azacytidine drug into a DNA form termed 5-azadeoxycytidine. However, once HIV incorporates 5-azadeoxycytidine into its own genome, this triggers a series of mutations that inhibit the virus from replicating further.
Interviewed by Laboratory Roots magazine, lead researcher Dr. Louis Mansky stated: "we now understand the mechanism for how 5-azacytidine blocks HIV's infectivity through hypermutation. This information may aid in developing cheaper HIV drugs."
The new drug is described in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. The paper is titled "5-azacytidine enhances the mutagenesis of HIV-1 by reduction to 5-aza-2’-deoxycytidine."
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