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Blue-green algae kill HIV in culture.

Blue-green algae kill HIV in culture

A laboratory study shows that compounds found in two strains of blue-green algae protect human T-cells from destruction by the AIDS virus, HIV. The findings are very preliminary, and researchers must overcome a number of hurdles before considering the compounds for human trials. Nevertheless, the scientists involved say the compounds represent an important new class of anti-HIV chemicals that eventually could add to the armamentarium against AIDS.

The study is part of the National Cancer Institute's Developmental Therapeutics Program, established to find promising new antiviral or antitumor compounds derived from marine organisms, plants and other natural sources. Michael R. Boyd and his colleagues hit on a potential AIDS treatment when they studies extracts from Lyngbya lagerheimii and Phormidium tenue algae collected in Hawaii and the Palau Islands. They report their findings in the Aug. 16 JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE.

The researchers found that virtually 100 percent of human T-cells could survive HIV's attack in petri dishes when treated with extracts from these two algae. The compounds responsible for the protective effect, they report, are sulfonic-acid-containing glycolipids, biologically derived chemicals made of sugars and long chains of fatty acids.

Boyd's group isolated the compounds but has yet to unravel the mechanism by which they shield human cells from HIV-induced death. Nonetheless, the researchers hope the compounds will one day offer a therapy to complement other potent AIDS drugs such as zidovudine (AZT).

They caution, however, that chemicals that protect cells in a laboratory dish often fail to work in the human body. The scientists must test the compounds in animals before proceeding to human trials.

Despite a year-long effort, scientists still can't synthesize these chemicals in the laboratory, Boyd says, calling the inability to manufacture large quantities the biggest obstacle to further testing. For now, he says, scientists must rely on algae to produce relatively small amounts of the glycolipids.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 26, 1989
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