Society learned about the value of mRNA during the COVID-19 pandemic when we saw scientists and medical professionals use their power to deliver a vaccine for the virus within a year.

Now, Emmanuel Hu, associate professor of pharmacy at the University of Waterloo, has developed a new nanomedicine loaded with genetic material called small interfering RNAs (siRNA) to fight the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) using gene therapy. Is. These siRNAs regulate which genes or proteins are turned on or off in our cells and showed a 73 percent reduction in HIV replication.

“This opens the door to new treatments in the fight against HIV,” said Dr. Hu, who is among the Waterloo researchers and entrepreneurs leading health innovation in Canada.

Autophagy, also known as the body’s recycling process, plays an important role in eliminating microbes such as viruses and bacteria inside cells in our body. HIV is quite clever and produces a protein, Nef, that prevents cells from activating autophagy.

This is the first research to develop a combination of nanomedicines that can reactivate autophagy and block HIV’s entry into cells, allowing our body to restart its immune system. .

Additionally, HIV has a gene, CCR5, that allows the virus to enter the cell. siRNAs target both Nef and CCR5 to attenuate HIV infection.

This nanomedicine is to be applied vaginally to prevent sexual transmission of HIV. As a result, nanomedicines are designed to be stable in the acidic vaginal environment without leakage of siRNAs but release the siRNA once inside the cells.

“Viruses are smart. They produce the Nef protein to prevent autophagy from occurring,” Hu said. “Our process allows our body to fight viral infections without the need for additional drugs.”

Ho confirms that the next steps include further refining this process and improving our understanding of how autophagy plays a role in how our cells protect us from viruses.

“We also hope it will shed some light on developing more alternative methods to effectively reduce antimicrobial resistance,” Hu said.