Sunday, January 13, 2008

Functional Genomic Screen of HIV

The New York Times Science Times reported on a new study of HIV proteins published in Science this week. I have not read the study, but it sounds interesting. [Science charges an arm and a leg for on-line access- this makes me so mad!]. The authors call this type of study a "functional genomic screen."

From what I can tell, the research team used bits of RNA that they call Short-Interfering RNAs (SiRNAs) to interrupt immune cell function. They added different SiRNAs to healthy immune cells, in thousands of small plastic laboratory wells. Next, they added HIV to the mixture. If the HIV could not replicate within the SiRNA-modified cells, they concluded that the SiRNA interrupted the function of a vital protein that HIV needs in order to function. They called these proteins HDFs, or "High Dependency Factors." The NYT cartoon helps explain the study.

Hopefully, further work will help determine how the HDFs help HIV live in human cells. Once they understand this better, pharmaceutical companies can develop better drugs. Luckily, I have a dad who knows proteins like I know Tusker beers. Dad will explain all of this in detail. More to follow after I hear from him


alex montero said...


Glad to see you navigated the recent craziness there intact. Politics is life or death it seems in your neighborhood, please stay on the life side of it.

Don't know when your tour ends, but if you're interested in attending a Lebanese-Bolivian wedding in DC in May let me know, we'd love to have you there.

nomad said...

Thanks to the four people who emailed me the Science paper. Also a comment below from the brilliant physician-scientist mother-of-turbo Ro-Ro Sampo:

while siRNA techniques tend to be quite dirty, the authors seem to have made remarkable progress into mapping key HIV-human interactions. Having looked into this type of interaction "map" in yeast, bacteria and kidney development, however, my gut feeling is that there are a lot of
"side" pathways and redundant pathways that will enable the virus to bypass an inactivated target. Still, it's a key starting point for future research and the figure is astounding.

Alex: Weddings aren't usually my thing, but if I'm around, perhaps I can make an exception for you (given the magnitude of this achievement in a swinging single like you).