Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have cataloged host proteins that physically bind to HIV proteins, which identify human proteins that the virus can use to infect cells and spread.

HIV has been heavily studied over the years and there has been a minimal amount of new approaches used toward creating a unique treatment to fight off infection, according to the study. Many antiretroviral therapies that treat HIV tend to target the virus itself; however, scientists are now interested in developing therapies that aim for the host proteins instead due to the belief that these therapies are less likely to elicit drug resistance.

Led by senior investigator Nevan Krogan, PhD, scientists at UC San Francisco, University College Dublin, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine created a technique that disrupts host genes rather than proteins. This approach is based on the idea that you can obtain richer information about the functions of genes when you disable the genes in pairs instead of one-by-one.

This approach uses a viral epistasis map (vE-MAP), which can help uncover a previously unsuspected set of genes required for the growth of the virus in human cells, according to the researchers. In addition, the vE-MAP can be used to analyze how different HIV mutants affect host cells or to test drugs that disrupt HIV-host interactions.

An adaptation of the E-MAP, the vE-MAP allows investigators to find new pathways that are being highjacked by HIV, which could serve as therapeutic targets, according to Krogan. “Once we find the proteins that are being highjacked by HIV, we can identify key pathways that are targeting HIV and develop drugs that will target the complex, which gives us a better chance of fighting off the HIV infection,” Krogan said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®.

In the pharmacy realm, Krogan feels that this discovery can help make predictions about the future of pharmacy. “The framework that we are using here can be applied to a couple things, such as coronavirus, Ebola, dengue, and more,” Krogan said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “We are starting to see a commonality in all different disease states, which can help us try and find cures for all of these diseases and viruses at the same time.”

Chanut, Francoise. Gladstone Scientists Identify New Human Genes Controlling HIV Infection. Gladstone Institutes. Published February 20, 2020. Accessed March 3, 2020.