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Federal grant funds research on novel HIV therapy

An immunology researcher at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia leads a multi-center $6.7 million program project grant recently awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to explore a novel approach to HIV treatment.

Encompassing basic science research, animal studies and clinical trials in adult patients, the new grant focuses on a potential Achilles' heel in the human immunodeficiency virus: sites on immune cells known as neurokinin-1 receptors. In focusing on those sites, researchers hope to achieve a triple benefit: fighting HIV by blocking the virus from immune cells, improving innate immune function and reducing symptoms of depression that are associated with the disease.

Steven D. Douglas, M.D., professor of Pediatrics, chief of the Section of Immunology and director of Clinical Immunology Laboratories at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, is the principal investigator and program director of the new Integrated Preclinical/Clinical Program grant. Dr. Douglas oversees projects led by collaborators at four sites: Children's Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania, Tulane National Primate Research Center, and Seracare Bioservices, Inc.

The program project is entitled, "Neurokinin-1R (SP Receptor) Antagonists for HIV Therapy." NIMH, a member institute of the National Institutes of Health, issued the four-year, $6.7 million grant award this fall.

The grant builds on more than a decade of investigation by Dr. Douglas into substance P, a neurotransmitter long known to be active in the brain and nervous system. Dr. Douglas and colleagues discovered in 1997 that immune cells produce substance P and its receptor, neurokinin-1, and later showed that incubation with substance P raised HIV levels in immune cell cultures. They subsequently found that a compound that binds to the substance P receptor in immune cells inhibits HIV from entering its hiding place within immune cells.

That compound, from a class
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Source:Children's Hospital of Philadelphia


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