An HIV Vaccine Made From Bananas?
Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) Medical School have discovered a set of proteins in bananas that may finally slow the spread of HIV. They are lectins, sugar-binding proteins that can identify a foreign invader and attach themselves to it, blocking its entrance into the body.
Co-authors of the study, published in the March 15, 2010 Journal of Biological Chemistry, Erwin J. Goldstein, Ph.D and Harry C. Winter, Ph.D developed the biopurification method to isolate the leptin, called BanLec, from bananas. Then the BanLec was tested by the research team and found to be an effective anti-HIV lectin, similar in potency to T-20 and maraviroc, anti-HIV drugs currently used.
The U-M researchers are confident that BanLec will provide a wider range of inhibition than the current drugs, because lectins offer protection against the virus mutating. Additionally, BanLec would be much cheaper to make than the current anti-virals that use synthetic components.
Michael Swanson, lead author of the study, will develop a process to molecularly alter BanLec to enhance its clinical utility.
In spite of the enthusiasm for its discovery, BanLec is years away from clinical use. But the authors say that even if it were only 60 percent effective, BanLec could prevent as many as 2.5 million HIV infections in three years.