Researchers at KU Leuven have discovered a new class of HIV inhibitors called ledgins.
Over time, mutations in the HIV virus make it immune to existing medications, meaning it is important to keep developing new inhibitors directed at new targets.
Some time ago, the research group of Zeger Debyser discovered how the virus uses the protein LEDGF to integrate into the DNA of its host. In effect, LEDGF functions as a kind of grappling hook for the virus.
The new HIV inhibitors were developed by a multidisciplinary team, using computer modelling to design small molecules to prevent the interaction between the virus and this cofactor.
This has demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to develop inhibitors that are specifically intended to counteract the cellular cofactors of HIV. The research involved co-operation between four research groups in Leuven: Molecular Virology, Bio-crystallography, Bio-modelling and the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3).