'Molecular scissors' could be key to cutting off diseases including HIV infection

COLUMBUS, Ohio – One way to fight diseases including HIV infection and autoimmune disorders could involve changing how a naturally occurring enzyme called SAMHD1 works to influence the immune system, new research suggests.

The study, led by researchers from The Ohio State University, details how the enzyme influences proteins that stimulate the immune response.

SAMHD1 isn’t a molecular “good guy” or “bad guy” per se, but there are cases in which blocking its activity might thwart disease progression, said Li Wu, the study’s senior author and a professor of veterinary biosciences and microbial infection and immunity in Ohio State’s Center for Retrovirus Research.

The research, conducted in human and mouse immune cells, appears online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Lacking this enzyme due to SAMHD1 gene mutations can activate the human immune system and increase inflammation, and now we better understand the fundamental biological process behind that,” Wu said.

“In a perfect world, SAMHD1 is responsible for balanced regulation of the immune response, but it also could limit HIV or other viral infections and alter the progression and treatment of certain cancers. We need good immune responses, obviously, but we don’t want overwhelming immune


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