Failed HIV Drug Gets Second Chance with Addition of Gold Nanoparticles

May 23, 2008

Researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered that adding tiny bits of gold to a failed HIV drug rekindle the drug's ability to stop the virus from invading the body's immune system.

The addition of gold nanoparticles to a modified version of a drug designed in the 1990s to combat HIV - but discarded due to its harmful side effects - creates a compound that prevents the virus from gaining a cellular foothold, say Dr. Christian Melander, assistant professor of chemistry at NC State, and doctoral student T. Eric Ballard.

Their findings appear online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The drug, a compound known as TAK-779, was originally found to bind to a specific location on human T-cells, which blocks the HIV virus' entry to the body's immune system. Unfortunately, the portion of the drug's molecule that made binding possible had unpleasant side effects. When that portion of the molecule - an ammonium salt - was removed, the drug lost its binding ability.

That's when the researchers turned to gold as the answer. The element is non-reactive in the human body, and would be the perfect "scaffold" to attach molecules of the drug to in the absence of the ammonium salt, holding the drug molecules together and concentrating their effect.

"The idea is that by attaching these individual molecules of the drug with a weak binding ability to the gold nanoparticle, you can magnify their ability to bind," Melander says.

The researchers' theory proved correct. They started with a modified version of TAK-779, which didn't include the harmful ammonium salt. After testing, they found that attaching 12 molecules of the modified drug (SDC-1721) to one nanoparticle of gold restored the drug's ability to prevent HIV infection in primary cultured patient cells. When only one molecule of the drug was attached to the gold nanoparticle, the compound was unable to prevent HIV infection, indicating that the multivalency of the drug was important for its activity.

"We've discovered a non-harmful way to improve the strength and efficacy of an important drug," Melander says. "There's no reason to think that this same process can't be used with similar effect on other existing drugs."

Source: North Carolina State University

Explore further: New graphene oxide biosensors may accelerate research of HIV and cancer drugs

Related Stories

HIV/AIDS treatment curbs spread of disease: study

July 19, 2010

The BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) published an important study today in the globally respected Lancet medical journal. The study strongly reinforces the view that the benefits of highly active antiretroviral ...

Recommended for you

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 24, 2008
BUT: ""We've discovered a non-harmful way to improve the strength and efficacy of an important drug," Melander says. " is both
untrue, and very poor science!!
This was done in cell culture!! How
on earth does one translate that into
'non-harmful' ?????

1 / 5 (1) May 26, 2008
Screw research, just watch SouthPark.

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.