After 20 Years, Scientists Crack HIV Puzzle

Enzyme integrase made visible for first time
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2010 8:11 AM CST
After 20 Years, Scientists Crack HIV Puzzle
An activist holds a cut-out of a red ribbon, displaying their solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS, during a rally marking World AIDS Day in Calcutta, India, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009.   (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

After 40,000 failed trials and "painstakingly slow progress," scientists have solved a puzzle that stumped AIDS researchers for more than 20 years—and their findings could help develop more effective HIV drugs. The researchers at Harvard and Imperial College London grew a crystal that for the first time made visible the structure of integrase, the enzyme targeted by many newer HIV drugs, Reuters reports.

Drugs like Merck's Isentress and Gilead Sciences' experimental Elvitegravir work by blocking integrase, but until now scientists haven't been able to see how they do so or how to make them more effective. By testing drugs on the crystals, as researchers did with the Merck and Gilead drugs, scientists will be able to better understand how to stop HIV from developing resistance to them.

(More HIV stories.)

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