Researchers Decode HIV Genome

“Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have decoded the entire HIV genome, opening the door to understanding how viruses infect humans – knowledge that could lead to new antiviral drugs,” the Triangle Business Journal reports. The building block of HIV is a single stranded RNA, not a double stranded DNA (Gallagher, 8/6).

In the Nature study, published Thursday, the team of researchers describe how their newly developed “chemical method called SHAPE … make[s] an image not only of the RNA’s nucleotides, but of the shapes and folds of the RNA strands,” Reuters writes (Fox, 8/5). The approach allowed researchers to capture a more complete picture of the HIV RNA genome than previously identified, revealing “that the RNA structures influence multiple steps in HIV’s infection cycle,” HealthDay News/U.S. News & World Report writes (8/5).

“The hallmark of HIV is its rapid mutation,” Kevin Weeks, the lead author on the study, said, according to Canwest News Service. “Our study helps us to better understand how this happens, so we can learn how the virus attacks, replicates, evades and lies in wait” (Iype, 8/5).

According to the team of researchers, the technique could lead to new treatments for HIV as well as “for other viruses such as influenza and the bugs that cause the common cold,” Reuters writes (8/5).