Portland State professor unlocks virus that could lead to drugs for HIV

November 21, 2014 / Phil Lesch

The Oregonian
November 20th, 2014

A Portland State University biology professor who's been tramping around the globe for 18 years hunting viruses has marked a breakthrough that could help patients infected with the HIV virus that leads to AIDS.

Professor Ken Stedman and his team are the first to unlock the structure of a virus found in volcanic hot springs in Japan. The discovery took their breath away: It resembled human immunodeficiency virus, which scientists had thought was unique.

"It's a lot like two HIVs stuck together," Stedman said. "It's a really big milestone."

His finding, made in collaboration with biologist Marc Morais at the University of Texas Medical Branch, could pave the way for the development of HIV drugs that disturb the virus' structure, making it difficult for the organism to mutate and adapt.

Many current HIV drugs target genes involved replicating the virus. But the genes are flexible. They can get around the drugs. Medication aimed at the structure itself would make the organism more vulnerable.

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