Tokyo: Scientists claim to have identified the structure of an immune-cell protein targeted by HIV, paving way for development of new medicines to block attacks by the deadly virus.
The discovery was made by researchers from the National Hospital Organization Nagoya Medical Center and Nagoya University in Japan. Lymphocyte cells that have virus-fighting proteins on their surface are a central part of the human immune system.
Researchers found that an HIV protein called Vif (viral infectivity factor) is able to bind to and destroy these proteins, allowing the AIDS-causing virus to enter the cells and multiply,'Kyodo' news agency reported.
They analysed the molecular structure of an antivirus protein called APOBEC3C and found that it contains a cavity that Vif can bind to.
The study confirmed the process through which this phenomenon occurs, and found that this protein falls apart once the two combine, the report said.
While existing medicines to combat HIV often cause side effects or becomes less potent if used over a long period, this new finding has raised "the possibility for the development of a new AIDS treatment that taps into the human body's own defense mechanism," Yasumasa Iwatani, who heads the medical center's laboratory of infectious diseases, said.
Researchers said that they now plan to look for compounds that can fit into the protein cavity and block attacks by HIV to study the effectiveness of different candidate compounds.
The study is published in the US journal 'Nature Structural and Molecular Biology'.