HIV is a cunning bugger. It can lie dormant for years. Not only that, the virus conceals itself in the very cells that help fight off foreign invaders. It quietly lies there cloaked in CD4 cells, in an undetectable state waiting to regenerate.
Now new research has discovered a protein thought to be able to expose hidden HIV. Called Ssu72, it appears to interact with another protein called Tat (Trans-activator of transcription). Tat signals to the HIV virus when it is safe to replicate.
Researchers at the Salk Institute in California have discovered that Ssu72 can bind itself chemically to Tat. It also acts as a sort of jump lead. “Tat is like an engine for HIV replication and Ssu72 revs up the engine,” said a Salk researcher. “If we target this interaction between Ssu72 and Tat, we may be able to stop the replication of HIV.”