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Viral protein structure study offers HIV therapy hope

National Physical Laboratory is involved in a collaborative project that is helping to further the understanding of HIV viral protein structure which could lead to new molecular medicines.

In May 2010 the project team, comprising biotechnology experts from NPL, the University of Edinburgh and IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, published some of their research in Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

The article sets out to resolve controversy over how part of an HIV protein is structured. The research team present a definitive structure of the protein, which was obtained using experimental techniques and computer simulation. It is important to know exactly how viral proteins are structured so that drug developers can target weaknesses within it, and therefore devise better treatments for people.

NPL's Eleonora Cerasoli says: "In this research, we were looking at a part of the HIV virus that helps it fuse with, and then infect, healthy cells within the human body. By confirming the structure of this tiny, but significant, fragment of the HIV-1 protein we are helping to shed more light on its infection mechanism. Further work in this area will hopefully lead to a full understanding of exactly how it works, and therefore lead to better treatments for HIV."

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