News / Health

Topical Medication Might Provide Protection Against HIV

Microbiocide would kill virus where it enters the body

Boston researchers have developed a topical agent that might block the HIV virus from infecting healthy cells when it enters the body.
Boston researchers have developed a topical agent that might block the HIV virus from infecting healthy cells when it enters the body.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

Researchers have developed a topically-applied molecular microbicide capable of preventing HIV transmission. The medication works by silencing the genes that promote infection.

The microbicide is predicted to have long-lasting effects in mice and could lead to the development of an intravaginal microbicide to protect women against HIV infection, possibly for weeks at a time.

For years, scientists have tried to develop a topical microbicide to stop HIV transmission. It might be a gel or cream, used vaginally, that would act against the AIDS virus.

A variety of approaches have been tried. In newly published research, scientists at Harvard Medical School and other institutions show that RNA interference can block the virus from infecting healthy cells.

RNA interference is used by primitive organisms in place of the kind of immune system that we have. It's only been a decade or so that scientists have been trying to harness it to control human disease.

Lead researcher Judy Lieberman explains that RNA interference is a mechanism that can silence, or "knock down" the action  of one gene at a time.

"And so we were able to knock down either viral genes or the host receptor for HIV, which is called CD4, and show that we could prevent the spread of HIV infection in culture."

Doing that in culture, in the lab, is one thing. It turns out that getting RNA interference to work in the immune cells targeted by HIV is not easy.

But in a new publication, Lieberman and her colleagues describe how they did it, using mice that were genetically modified to give them a more human-like immune system. "And what this paper shows is a new way to induce gene silencing in immune cells that actually works in vivo," she says.

This is not the first topical microbicide developed to stop HIV transmission, but Lieberman says the others typically require that a woman use the product just before having sex.

"And that's a huge impediment. So what's attractive about what we've developed is that the effect appears to be quite durable, and it might be possible to treat yourself and have the protection last for a week or so."

RNA-interference is not specific to HIV/AIDS. Lieberman says previous research show that RNA can be effective in controlling some cancers and a virus that causes breathing problems in newborn babies.

But there are still challenges. "The big obstacle has been," Lieberman says, "how do you get these drugs into cells? And what we're excited about is that we now have a way, not only of introducing RNA into cells, but of also targeting them into specific cell types."

Lieberman says one advantage to RNA-based medicine is that because it is so targeted against specific genes, safety and side effects are less of an issue.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid