Beijing — Chinese scientists together with U.S. experts have led a breakthrough in HIV research which could help develop better HIV drugs in the future.
Researchers determined the high-resolution structure of one of two gateways HIV uses to get into the human immune system, the CCR5 receptor on the surface of human cells. An HIV protein binds to the receptor, allowing it to fuse to the cell membrane beneath, and ultimately dig its way inside the cell.
CCR5 belongs to a family of proteins called G-protein-coupled receptors which are important drug targets.
Only recently have scientists been able to image G-protein-coupled receptors at high resolution, a critical step in drug design.
“Structural studies of GPCRs are enormously challenging,” said Wu Beili, a researcher from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, who was involved in the research.
The studies have given scientists a series of critical insights, which will help them to improve existing HIV drugs and also create new ones.
“This important research from a team of international scientists is another significant milestone in this field and provides insights critical for the development of better treatments for HIV,” said Dr Helen Pickersgill, contributing editor of the Science journal.