HIV researcher Yuntao Wu has a blunt description of his invention: “It’s a hunter.”
Already highly respected for his work in combating the virus that causes AIDS, Wu, professor of molecular and microbiology in the College of Science, recently filed for a patent for a nucleic acid that his lab developed, which seeks out and destroys cells infected with HIV.
The nucleic acid, which is called HIV dependent expression construct (HDEC), has a two-pronged mode of attack. First, through the use of built-in reporter genes, HDEC identifies the presence of HIV in cells. The intensity of the signal the infected cell gives off, Wu points out, reflects the degree of infection.
Then, after an infected cell has been identified, Wu adds, HDEC employs therapeutic genes that can then kill the cell, leaving uninfected cells unharmed.
Wu says HDEC may someday reduce the amount of medication AIDS patients are given.
The National Institutes of Health provided funding for Wu’s research. His lab is now seeking additional funding for further testing in animals.