Researchers at the University of Louisville Have Developed a Gel to Stop the Spread of HIV
On Monday the 4th of August, the US National Institutes of Health announced that they would be funding a five-year, $14.7 million dollar HIV research project led by the Owensboro Cancer Research program and the University of Louisville.
The Louisville researchers goal is to create a gel-based preventative therapy, involving the use of tobacco plants.
The research efforts, led by the Kentucky based University of Louisville and Owensboro Health, are using a carbohydrate combining protein called Griffithsin (GRFT), found in red algae. In the lab, this protein has been shown to exhibit broad anti HIV activity. The GRFT protein binds to the shield of sugars that surrounds HIV infected cells, and this prevents the infected cells from entering healthy cells. The team hopes to develop this gel to be used as a protective barrier before ‘at risk’ people have sexual intercourse.
To develop the microbicide, the protein is injected into a tobacco mosaic virus, which carries the protein into the tobacco leaves. After a period of 12 days, researchers harvest the leaves and extract the now mass produced protein for development into the vaccine.
Dr.Kenenth Palmer, director of the Owensboro Cancer Research Programme and leader of the project, has said ‘Our goal is to optimise the delivery system of the protective agent, which in this case is a gel, and determine its safety and estimates of its efficacy, leading to a first-in-humans clinical trial.’
Overall, the NIH grant consists of three projects – The Critical Path Project, the Preclinical Testing Project and the Clinical Trial Project.
The critical path project focuses on manufacturing the active ingredient in the microbicide. The preclinical testing project is in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta to test the treatment on animals and observe if the vaccine is safe and if it is effective in protecting against infection.Finally, the clinical trial project involve developing and writing an application for the FDA in order to conduct the first human trials.
It will take at least five years to glean results from this project, but the promising microbicide may yield a HIV cure for the near future.
Read more about it here: Can the tobacco plant be the key to HIV prevention?