This image shows the structure of the newly found receptor or a main entry point that the HIV virus uses to attack human cells. The structure of the other receptor is already known. Wu Beili, a project leader from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says her team spent two years on the research. Their findings were published today in the online version of Science, a leading US-based scientific journal. Although the journal praised Wu's work, she says the road towards a new HIV drug is still long and challenging.
"HIV infection is very complicated. It involved a lot of proteins and lot of factors. It has a lot of different types of viruses. Actually, for each people, (he or she) may take different viruses if they infected," Wu said.
Wu says the fact former NBA star Magic Johnson is still alive after announcing he was HIV positive more than 20 years ago, shows the disease doesn't infect everyone the same way. Wu's findings also drew the attention of researchers from the city's Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
"HIV drugs, if taken for too long, may cause drug tolerance. If there is a new drug, it will provide a new option to the patients. Since it doesn't have the tolerance problem, it will better depress the HIV virus," said Cheng Hua.
Cheng also says that most of the city's 40-plus HIV drugs are imported from western countries. He believes Wu's research will definitely push ahead the development of domestic treatments.
Wu says she can't estimate when she and her colleagues will be able to use her findings to create the next generation of HIV drugs. But she says her institute has already started the development of new drugs based on her findings. She says given the scientific breakthroughs in the past decade, she feels confident human beings will eventually find a solution to HIV.