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    Showing posts with label Hiv. Show all posts

    Breast Milk Protein may Protect Babies From HIV

    Scientists have for the first time identified a protein in breast milk that neutralises HIV and may protect babies from acquiring the virus from their infected mothers.

    The protein, called Tenascin-C or TNC, had previously been recognised as playing a role in wound healing, but had not been known to have antimicrobial properties. The discovery could lead to potential new HIV-prevention strategies.

    Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found the TNC protein in breast milk binds to and neutralises the HIV virus, protecting exposed infants who might otherwise become infected from repeated exposures to the virus.

    "Even though we have antiretroviral drugs that can work to prevent mother-to-child transmission, not every pregnant woman is being tested for HIV, and less than 60 per cent are receiving the prevention drugs, particularly in countries with few resources," said senior study author Sallie Permar, assistant professor of pediatrics, immunology and molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke.

    "So there is still a need for alternative strategies to prevent mother-to-child transmission, which is why this work is important," Permar said.

    In their study, the Duke team screened mature milk samples from uninfected women for neutralising activity against a panel of HIV strains, confirming that all of the detectable HIV-neutralisation activity was contained in the high molecular weight portion.

    Using a multi-step protein separation process, the researchers narrowed the detectable HIV-neutralisation activity to a single protein, and identified it as TNC.

    "TNC is a component of the extracellular matrix that is integral to how tissues hold themselves together," Permar said, noting that co-author Harold Erickson, professor of cell biology at Duke, was among the first to identify and describe TNC in the 1980s.

    Researchers found the protein is uniquely effective in capturing virus particles and neutralises the virus, specifically binding to the HIV envelope.

    Gates Foundation Gives Millions For Research On Malaria, HIV, More

    Using microwaves to kill malaria parasites and developing a way to give fetuses immunity to HIV are among the dozen ideas the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation thinks are worth more research dollars, after giving more than 500 scientists seed money to take an initial look at some far-out concepts.

    A dozen scientists or teams of researchers will each get an additional $1 million over five years to take their ideas to the next level and see if they have the potential to save lives, the foundation announced Wednesday.

    The foundation initially chose more than 500 scientific ideas out of nearly 20,000 proposals for its Grand Challenges Explorations grants, worth $100,000 each, saying it would be taking a calculated risk by giving money for whatever wacky idea the world's best minds come up with to combat malaria, HIV and other world health problems.

    The ideas remain highly speculative into the $1 million stage.

    "They run against conventional wisdom," said Chris Wilson, director of the foundation's Global Health Discovery program. "Of course, more often than not, conventional wisdom is right."

    As an example, he points to the idea of using microwaves to kill malaria parasites, from within their hosts – mice for the experiment, but humans eventually.

    "That's probably not going to work," Wilson said. "But if it did work, it would be pretty stunning."

    The scientist, Jose Stoute, a medical researcher who specializes in infectious diseases at Penn State University, might not appreciate that less-then-enthusiastic endorsement, but Wilson says the same thing about nearly all these grants.

    "Science is a place where lots of things don't work," he said, adding that the foundation remains optimistic about these grants. "I think we're cautiously optimistic that somewhere along this path, some of these might happen," he said.

    To graduate to a million dollar grant, the scientists have to prove their initial idea has merit as a potential way to save lives and that it is practical and potentially scalable and affordable, Wilson said.

    Stoute said he and his co-collaborator, Carmenza Spadafora at Panama's Institute of Advanced Scientific Investigations and High Technology Services, got the idea for the project from an innovative cancer treatment involving microwaves that uses iron to tag cancer cells.

    Since the malaria parasite naturally collects iron as a byproduct of its actions within the human body, they thought malaria might be another good target for microwave treatment. Stoute is working with microwave engineers to design a machine to deliver the treatment in the lab.

    Collaboration among different kinds of scientists is an attribute of many of the Grand Challenges projects.

    Mike McCune, professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, said working in multidisciplinary teams has helped a number of researchers from his university get a Gates grant.

    His project, to fight HIV infection while a fetus is in the uterus, takes a number of known scientific principals and combines them in a new way.

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