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University of Trento’s researchers pioneers in the fight against HIV

Serinc5 identified as a natural weapon against the virus

University of Trento’s researchers pioneers in the fight against HIV

Claudia Astarita

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A group of researchers from the University of Trento can be proudly considered as pioneers in the fight against HIV. In particular, they discovered a protein present on the surface of cells that works as an inhibitor and a natural defence against HIV virus.

The discovery of Serinc5 - name of the key cellular protein - was recently published on Nature (the world-known science and medicine journal) and, as stated by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, will certainly open the way to new methods concerning the treating of HIV.

This innovative research activity started focusing on the genes expressed by the cells producing HIV. So doing, the researchers observed that Serinc5 was able to neutralize the virus, attacking it once out of the cell and therefore impeding it to spread the infection. In spite of its great potential, the cellular protein action seems to be contrasted by another protein, known as Nef. As explained by Massimo Pizzato, head of the academic research group, Nef removes Serinc5 from he surface of the cells, hence avoiding its anti-viral action. As a result, viruses without Nef are rarely able to provoke HIV in the individual.

Consequently, the focus of further research needs to be on Serinc5, in order to strengthen its action as an endogenous defence mechanism against HIV. Furthermore, as highlighted by Dr Piazzato, it seems essential to conduct further investigation on the interaction between Nef and Serinc5, which are still not completely clear. For instance, an in-depth knowledge of this interaction could lead to new paths aimed at avoiding any contact between the two proteins. This scenario could allow Serinc5 to play undisturbed its role as natural inhibitor of the virus.

Finally, it is important to mention that the researchers of the University of Massachusetts have also pointed out the core role played by Serinc5 in the struggle against the lethal virus, confirming the significance of the innovative Italian discovery.

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