3D structure of HIV is discovered

January 24, 2006

Scientists say the 3D structure of the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, has been determined for the first time.

The variable size and shape of HIV has made it hard to map, so the British-German research team took hundreds of images of virus, which is 60 times smaller than red blood cells, and then used a computer program to combine them.

Oxford University Professor Stephen Fuller told the BBC: "You say can you show me the structure of the HIV virus and the question is which one. HIV is very variable. It varied in diameter by a factor of three."

Despite the variability, the team found some consistent features, including the finding the core of virus spans the width of the viral membrane. But there are spikes on the outside that bind to human immune cells and allow the virus to invade them.

The scientists told the BBC whereas most viruses have internal structures that define their size, in the HIV virus it's the membrane that defines the size. They say that fact might lead to more effective therapeutic approaches.

The study is described in the journal Structure.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Scientists show why anti-HIV antibodies are ineffective at blocking infection

Related Stories

Unpicking HIV’s invisibility cloak

February 10, 2012

Drug researchers hunting for alternative ways to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections may soon have a novel target—its camouflage coat. HIV hides inside a cloak unusually rich in a sugar called mannose, ...

Hepatitis C virus faces new weapon

September 29, 2010

In recent human trials for a promising new class of drug designed to target the hepatitis C virus (HCV) without shutting down the immune system, some of the HCV strains being treated exhibited signs of drug resistance.

An HIV-blocking gel for women

August 10, 2009

University of Utah scientists developed a new kind of "molecular condom" to protect women from AIDS in Africa and other impoverished areas. Before sex, women would insert a vaginal gel that turns semisolid in the presence ...

Recommended for you

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.