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'Smart Bomb' RNA Molecule Could Take Out Drug-Resistant HIV

An RNA molecule engineered to attack HIV in two different ways is showing positive results, according to a study in Science Translational Medicine. The researchers say that the molecule, which both curbs viral replication inside infected cells and neutralizes free-floating virus, could help patients who have developed resistance to HIV drugs.

The molecule, known as a chimaera, is composed of two different types of RNA: a small interfering RNA (siRNA), designed to enter infected cells and block the expression of two genes that HIV needs to replicate, and an RNA sequence known as an aptamer, which binds tightly to gp120, a protein found on the surface of HIV and HIV-infected cells. The aptamer has a dual role: it ferries the siRNA into infected cells and it neutralizes free-floating virus in the blood.

John Rossi, a molecular biologist at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, a lead author on the paper, describes the molecule as a smart bomb. "You're only targeting what has to be targeted," he says.
 
 

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