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Novel Gene Discovery Could Lead to New HIV Treatments

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A team of researchers led by King's College London has for the first time identified a new gene which may have the ability to prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from spreading after it enters the body.

Published in Nature today, the study is the first to identify a role for the human MX2 gene in inhibiting HIV. Researchers say this gene could be a new target for effective, less toxic treatments where the body's own natural defence system is mobilised against the virus.

The work was funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London. The study was also supported by the Wellcome Trust and European Commission.

Scientists carried out experiments on human cells in the lab, introducing the virus to two different cell lines and observing the effects. In one cell line the MX2 gene was expressed or 'switched on', and in the other it was not, or 'silenced'. They saw that in the cells where MX2 was silenced, the virus replicated and spread. In the cells where the MX2 gene was expressed, the virus was not able to replicate and new viruses were not produced.

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