Bangalore: Dr Indrani Sarkar has has every reason to be excited. Her PhD thesis, which started in 2002 at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany, has thrown open the doors for developing enzymes that can destroy the dreaded Human Immuno-deficiency Virus or HIV within infected cells permanently.
Indrani and a team of scientists have developed an enzyme called Tre. Tre is a custom enzyme capable of detecting, recognising and destroying HIV, much like a pair of molecular scissors.
"In laymans terms, it's an engineered enzyme which recognises sequences in the HIV genome that is duplicated, integrated virus and by the process of recombination, it cuts out the virus from the genome," says she.
The biggest challenge with treating HIV today is that the virus becomes dormant and often develops resistance to HIV drugs.
The only way then to cure HIV is to get rid of the virus completely and Tre, the enzyme that Indrani constructed after a year and its 126 "cycles of mutation" totally deplete HIV in the human genome in three months in laboratory conditions.
"It's a beautiful approach, but like any other drug, this one too will take a few years to reach clinics — anywhere between five and 20 years actually. A lot of research has to be done because since one is working with a novel enzyme, one has to engineer the enzyme," says she.
According to the latest statistics given out by UNAIDS and WHO, there are close to 39.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the world and though it will be a while before an imminent cure is likely, Dr Indrani Sarkar's findings certainly hold out hope for the millions who are battling the disease across the globe.