Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Buckyballs as potential inhibitors of HIV
A group of researchers from around the world (Rice University in Texas, Italy, Germany, and Greece) have collaborated to generate more than 100 computer simulations of buckyball derivatives that could be used to bind to the active site of HIV-1 protease and thus disable the enzyme. As we previously discussed in class, a buckyball is carbon fullerene or C60. HIV-1 protease is the enzyme responsible for cleaving the polyproteins at specific sites to create the smaller protein components of an infectious HIV virus. Without the protease, the virus remains uninfectious because it cannot replicate and infect additional cells. It has long been known that C60 fits into hydrophobic pocket in HIV and thus has an inhibition effect. The effect, however, was not particularly strong because it was not the perfect unit. This newly developed computer simulation allows various modifications of C60 to find that perfect unit.
Like we discussed in class today, vaccine and drug development has traditionally been of the trial and error method. However, this kind of research is a shift from the paradigm to a more rational and "educated" way of approaching drug development. I think this kind of research also highlights the need for people of all backgrounds and occupations in any public health intervention. While people do not traditionally associate computer science or math majors with public health, there is a serious need for people with these backgrounds in order to fight diseases such as HIV in a "smart" and effective way. You don't have to be a doctor or a public health major to make an impact in the fight against HIV.
To read the full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519134839.htm
PS. Try to see if you can spot the pentagons in the buckyball!