ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – New research at the University of Michigan may lead to drugs to target the HIV virus. In an online study published in Nature Nano-technology, UM College of Pharmacy researcher, Wei Cheng , says there were significant differences in the HIV viral particles … some were dangerous and infectious and some were more tame.

Roughly 76 percent of HIV infections arise from a single virus.

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Cheng’s lab developed and used a new optical technique to measure the particles.

Quantifying this key protein may reveal which of the many viruses present actually caused the infection.

The University of Michigan study is thought to be the first in which researchers were able to capture HIV at the single-particle level and measure with molecular resolutions, said principal investigator Wei Cheng of the U-M College of Pharmacy.

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Cheng’s group found that the HIV virus particles have different quantities of a key protein that enables virulence, and the protein-rich virus particles were more infectious than the others.

“There were significant molecular differences in the HIV viral particles—some were very dangerous and infectious, and some were more tame. The virus was very heterogeneous,” Cheng said. “Our technique lets us see differences down to the single molecule level, so if one virus particle differs from another by even one molecule, our instrument can detect that.”

Ultimately, Cheng says they hope to learn which strains of HIV contain the most dangerous viral particles most likely to infect healthy cells.

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