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Old 12-14-2004, 11:41 PM
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Rutgers researchers may have stopped HIV
Associated Press
Piscataway, N.J. — Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a trio of drugs they believe can destroy HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to a published report.

The drugs, called DAPYs, mimic the virus by changing shape, which enables them to interfere with the way HIV attacks the immune system.

Tests conducted in conjunction with Johnson and Johnson have shown the drug to be easily absorbed with minimal side effects. It also can be taken in one pill, in contrast to the drug cocktails currently taken by many AIDS patients.

“This could be it,” Stephen Smith, the head of the department of infectious diseases at Saint Michael's Medical Center in Newark, said. “We're all looking for the next class of drugs.”

A research team led by Rutgers chemist Eddy Arnold pre-published details of the most promising of the three drugs, known as R278474, last month in the electronic edition of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Full details will be published in the journal in early 2005.

Dr. Arnold, 47, has worked at dismantling the AIDS virus over the last 20 years. He uses X-ray crystallography, a technique to determine the structure of molecules, the smallest particles that can retain all the characteristics of an element or compound.

The research has targeted reverse transcriptase, a submiscroscopic protein composed of two coiled chains of amino acids. It is considered HIV's key protein.

“Reverse transcriptase is very important in the biology of AIDS,” Dr. Smith said. “If you can really inhibit reverse transcriptase, you can stop AIDS.”

The optimism about R278474 stems from its potential to interfere with an enzyme that the virus needs to copy and insert itself into a human cell.

“We're onto something very, very special,” Dr. Arnold said.

Dr. Arnold established his lab at Rutgers' Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine in 1987. His current 30-member research team is partnered with Johnson and Johnson subsidiaries Janssen Pharmaceutica and Tibotec-Virco NV.

An important advancement in Dr. Arnold's research came in 1990 when Belgian scientist Paul Janssen was added to the collaboration. Dr. Janssen, considered a drug pioneer, published a paper that year that described a new drug that blocked reverse transcriptase but caused resistant strains of the virus to pop up too quickly.

Dr. Janssen sought out Dr. Arnold, who used crystallography to detail the structure of RT. Their work ultimately led to the RT inhibitors.

“We may eventually win the war against HIV/AIDS. That would be an extremely rewarding and satisfying outcome,” Dr. Arnold said.
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