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Powerful Anti-AIDS Agent Found In Tears And In Urine Of Pregnant Women

(NEW YORK, March 15, 1999) -- NYU School of Medicine and NIH researchers have identified an ordinary protein present in tears and saliva as the long-sought mystery substance in the urine of pregnant women that is a powerful anti-HIV agent. The new finding helps explain why AIDS cannot be transmitted through saliva, and opens the way to an entirely new class of anti-AIDS medicines, according to a new study by the NYU and NIH scientists.

The researchers, led by Sylvia Lee-Huang, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry at NYU, and Hao-Chia Chen, Ph.D., Research Chemist, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, found that lysozyme, a well-known protein abundant in tears, is also present in the urine of pregnant women and is a potent anti-HIV agent. They also identified other potent anti-HIV agents in the urine, proteins called ribonucleases, enzymes that break apart the genetic material of RNA viruses, including the AIDS virus.

"These proteins are very promising anti-AIDS agents and likely will be well tolerated by the body, causing few side effects, because they occur naturally," says Dr. Lee-Huang. "We look forward to the next phase of our work, which will further determine how these proteins can best be used against HIV and other viruses."

Lysozyme, an enzyme first described in 1922 by Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, breaks down the cell wall of bacteria, causing bacterial cells to burst and die. The enzyme, which Fleming also discovered was abundant in tears, is produced in especially high levels during pregnancy and may play an important role protecting the body from foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.

Although it isn't understood yet how the proteins actually inhibit HIV, Dr. Lee-Huang suspects that lysozyme and ribonuclease act together to inhibit the HIV virus. In this scenario, the lysozyme may be acting to break down the outer membrane of the virus, potentially interfering with its a
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Contact: Marjorie Shaffer
Marjorie.Shaffer@med.nyu.edu
212-263-5488
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
16-Mar-1999


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