Researcher receives grant to help halt HIV replication

ST. LOUIS-Duane Grandgenett, Ph.D., professor of molecular virology at the Institute of Molecular Virology (IMV) at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, has received two grants totaling nearly a million dollars to study ways of inhibiting HIV replication in humans. The grants are from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ($866,250) and the American Foundation for AIDS Research ($75,000).

"Busch Stadium holds about 47,000 people," Dr. Grandgenett said. "Every three days, that's approximately how many people in the world become infected with HIV. It's a huge problem to say the least and the fundamental work we're doing in the lab is vital to understanding HIV's method of operation."

The monetary awards support Dr. Grandgenett's exploration of integrase, a protein he and his colleagues at Saint Louis University discovered in 1978. Integrase is one of three HIV proteins crucial to the infection's survival. The first protein, reverse transcriptase, converts the ribonucleic acid (RNA) in HIV into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Integrase then inserts the HIV DNA into the immune cell's DNA, making it a permanent part of the cell. The third protein, protease, helps the newly infected cell reproduce the virus. Millions of HIV tainted cells can be launched from a single infected cell.

Drugs such as AZT and drug combinations (cocktails) exist to inhibit reverse transcriptase and protease but, as of yet, there are no drugs to counter integrase.

"Drugs that target integrase would be a valuable accompaniment to the current inhibitors of HIV," Dr. Grandgenett said. "The current drug combinations available have side effects that are very difficult to tolerate. Finding a way to inhibit integrase could not only help us attack the virus on all three fronts but also could lessen the side effects of current therapy."

Dr. Grandgenett pointed out that studying the basic mechanisms of HIV is critical to finding effective

Contact: Joe Muehlenkamp
Saint Louis University

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