A natural compound found in soybeans and other plants has been shown to be a promising potential anti-HIV agent.
In preliminary research, scientists at George Mason University were able to show that the plant-based compound genistein inhibits the HIV infection by blocking cellular processes that allow the AIDS virus to infect cells and spread.
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"Although genistein is rich in several plants such as soybeans, it is still uncertain whether the amount of genistein we consume from eating soy is sufficient to inhibit HIV," said lead researcher Yuntao Wu, a professor with the George Mason-based National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Molecular and Microbiology.
Genistein doesn’t block HIV directly, but works by interrupting the communication from a cell's surface sensors to its interior — molecular signaling pathways that allow the AIDS virus to get inside and spread infection.
As a result, Wu noted: "It makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to [drug treatments]. Our study is currently it its early stage. If clinically proven effective, genistein may be used as a complement treatment for HIV infection."
Typically, HIV patients take a combination of drugs to inhibit the virus, but this can lead to toxic side effects and drug resistance over time.
Wu and his team are working at finding out how much genistein is needed to inhibit HIV.
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