Recent studies at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Emory University have opened up a new area of investigation for HIV therapy.
The research is based on the idea that HIV likes to "hide" from the immune system in macrophages. Unlike most cells that HIV infects, macrophages lack sufficient levels of dNTP (deoxynucleoside triphosphate), the molecule that the virus needs to build its "viral machinery". Instead, macrophages have rNTP (ribonucleoside triphosphate). This study monitored the effects of blocking HIV interaction with rNTP.
Results showed that blocking HIV's interactions with RNTP limited HIV's potential to replicate within macrophages by over 90%. This suggests that HIV will use rNTP instead of dNTP to replicate if rNTP is the only resource around.
Most current HIV drugs target dNTP. The researchers claim that these results show promise for the development of new, non-toxic, HIV-related drugs that use rNTP as a target. They suggest that using rNTP targets could even slow HIV earlier in the infection process because macrophages are one of the first cells infected by HIV in the genital tract. The next step will be to test rNTP targeting compounds (which have already been used in developing anti-cancer therapies) to see if they are effective against HIV.