Bluebells hold hope for HIV remedy

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The Independent Online
Bluebells and daffodils contain proteins which could form the basis of new drugs for combating HIV, the virus which can cause Aids, researchers announced at the British Association, writes Nicholas Schoon.

The hope is that these proteins, known as lectins, can be developed into compounds which block a crucial phase in the lifecycle of the virus - the point when it recognises and attaches itself to human immune cells. This attachment is the prelude to the attack which eventually wipes out the immune system and causes full-blown Aids, leaving victims prey to infection.

A team from Liverpool John Moores University and the nearby Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire has been using X-ray to discover thestructure of various lectins, in the hope that they can learn how they block the HIV virus and why some lectins are more effective than others.

"The results so far are a breakthrough but we still have a lot of work to do," said Pierre Rizkallah of the Daresbury Laboratory, owned and run by research councils. He estimated it would take at least another five years before the scientists would know whether a lectin-based drug was a possibility.