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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Sticky Situation

By October 11, 2010

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Amyloid proteins are best known for the role they play in Alzheimer's disease, but a recent study suggests that these sticky substances may also play a role in sexual transmission of HIV. Amyloid sticks to both HIV and to the immune cells that the virus infects, which may help promote disease transmission by making it more likely that the virus and cells will stay together long enough for infection to take place. It's therefore possible that Alzheimer's drugs designed to interfere with amyloid in the brain could also be useful in STD prevention.

Although anti-amyloid drugs would not be nearly as effective at preventing sexual transmission of HIV as condoms are, they might be able to make a potential microbicide more effective. However, it is important to note that this research is still in its early stages. Amyloid proteins certainly aren't necessary for sexual transmission of HIV to take place, and we do not yet know how effective interrupting them in vivo would be. Still, it is an interesting avenue for future research, and I would not be surprised if scientists discover that amyloid plays a role in the transmission of other STDs as well.

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October 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm
(1) Janet Madsen says:

Fascinating! I always find discoveries like this encouraging, even if they don’t end up being successful. It reminds me of the amazing “creative” potential of science. When scientists and researchers are really allowed to explore, we can find things we never would have thought to look for. This makes funding for research so important, even when there isn’t an obvious “sure win” saleable product to come out of it. Thanks for sharing.

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