Development of nanotechnology-based therapeutic approaches to treat HIV
The rapidly expanding field of nanotechnology has been the focus of many biologists with regard to drug delivery. The ability of nanoparticles to enter cellular compartments makes it possible to explore specific treatment strategies for life-threatening diseases such as AIDS. Since HIV primarily infects CD4+ cells, we aim to use CD4 as a selectable marker to deliver pro-apoptotic nano-devices to HIV infected cells. The objective is to selectively induce cell death or apoptosis in CD4+ HIV infected cells. Apoptosis is activated through a number of biochemical pathways. The apoptosis promoting protease, caspase-3 is central to the induction of apoptosis. Caspase-3 is produced as an inactive zymogen and is activated by other proteases through proteolytic cleavage. We take advantage of the fact that HIV-infected cells produce HIV-1 protease, which is responsible for the production of infectious virions through proteolytic cleavage of the HIV proteins, Gag and Pol. Our strategy was to generate a mutant form of the caspase-3 protease that is only cleavable by HIV-1 protease.