Medical News

Scientists Uncover 3-D Structure of HIV, Study Says

January 25, 2006

Scientists have uncovered the 3-D structure of HIV, according to a study published in the Jan. 10 edition of the journal Structure, BBC News reports. Because strains of HIV vary in size and shape, scientists have found it difficult to understand its structure, the study says. Stephen Fuller, a professor at Oxford University's Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, and colleagues took several images of the virus from different angles. The team took about 100 images of 70 individual viruses and compared them using a computer program. The researchers found that the cone-shaped core of HIV is as wide as the viral membrane, and the virus has spikes on the outside that it uses when attaching to CD4+ T cells. In addition, the study finds that HIV differs from most viruses in that its membrane, rather than its internal structure, defines its size, a feature that limits the way the virus can assemble. "Identifying how the virus grows will allow us to address the formation of this important pathogen and how it accommodates its variability," Fuller said, adding that the finding could lead to the development of more effective therapies to treat HIV (BBC News, 1/24).

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