Two years ago, Sanford-Burnham’s Dr. Sumit Chanda, Salk’s Dr. John Young and colleagues collaborated on a paper about HIV infection. They were trying to figure out how the virus, with only nine genes that code for 15 proteins, could be so effective with such a small genetic payload. They knew the virus was hijacking human proteins to succeed, but they wanted to pinpoint exactly which proteins were affected. The study, published October 3, 2008 in Cell, identified 295 host proteins involved in HIV infection. Since then, these findings have greatly impacted HIV research. In recognition of the paper’s significance, Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch has named it a “Fast Moving Front” paper for January 2011. In the accompanying interview with Science Watch, Drs. Chanda and Young said:
This was one of the first studies to combine genome-wide RNAi screening and bioinformatics to identify the repertoire of host cellular factors that help facilitate HIV replication in human cells. It represents a significant advance in our understanding of viral-host interactions, providing a blueprint of the machinery that is exploited by the virus.
The paper’s ripple effect is likely to continue - researchers are just now beginning to develop anti-HIV therapies that target some of these 295 host proteins.