LONDON, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- A team of researchers led by King's College London has identified a new gene, which may have the ability to prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from spreading after it enters the body.
Published in Nature on Wednesday, the study is the first to identify a role for the human MX2 gene in inhibiting HIV. Researchers say this gene could be a new target for effective, less toxic treatments where the body's own natural defence system is mobilised against the virus.
Scientists carried out experiments on human cells in the lab, introducing the virus to two different cell lines and observing the effects. In one cell line the MX2 gene was expressed or 'switched on', and in the other it was not, or 'silenced'.
They saw that in the cells where MX2 was silenced, the virus replicated and spread. In the cells where the MX2 gene was expressed, the virus was not able to replicate and new viruses were not produced.
"This research advances our understanding of how HIV virus interacts with the immune system and opens up opportunities to develop new therapies."
Professor Mike Malim, who led the research, told Xinhua: "We recognise both MX2's potent anti-viral function and a key point of vulnerability in the life cycle of HIV."
According to scientists, developing drugs to stimulate the body's natural inhibitors is an important approach because it would trigger a natural process and therefore won't have the problem of drug resistance.