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Bee venom could be a secret weapon against HIV

One of the most amazing things about nature is that it holds many secrets that we are only beginning to discover.  This is especially true when it comes nature’s remedy implemented in drugs to fight some of our worst diseases, and bees are possibly one of the newest sources of a medical miracle.

With all the drugs that we take, it isn't surprising that one of the biggest worries facing the medical world is the growing resistance to the drugs we take, which is leading to the rise of things like superbugs that we have no defense against.

It is because of this that scientists are looking more and more to nature, with the hope that it, and the vast numbers of plants, animals, and insects may hold solutions to these increasingly important questions. We have seen researchers looking at cobra venom for possible medical qualities, and now we have news that they are also investigating the possibility that bee venom could be the next big weapon against HIV.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have found that melittin—a toxin found in bee venom—can puncture not just ordinary cell walls, but it can also break through the tough envelopes surrounding viruses like HIV. They have already had some success by using nanoparticles coated with this melittin component to fight against tumor cells.  However, they have found that they needed to change the game plan just a little when it comes to fighting HIV.

[Nanoparticles (purple) plus its melittin (green) components fuse with HIV (small circles with spiked outer ring), and destroying the virus's protective envelope.  The bumpers (red lasso-like ring structures) prevent the nanoparticles from harming larger normal cells.]

By adding “bumpers” to the melittin-coated nanoparticles, the researchers found that the toxic component can avoid harming normal cells which are larger and takes up more space.  However, the HIV virus is much smaller, and therefore the melittin on the nanoparticles can bond to the virus and peel/drill away its envelope and disabling it. 

The researchers are hoping that, rather than just being an injectable cure, these nanoparticles will be able to be used as a preventative measure, stopping the HIV before it enters the bloodstream.

Source: Washington University St. Louis via Geekosystem

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