The overall research interest in the Mergia laboratory is to develop novel antiviral therapy for immunodeficiency viruses. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has an extraordinary survival advantage, confounding existing therapies. With a short generation time, variable antigenicity, and a large number of infective virions, it is hardly surprising that despite the development of anti-viral pharmaceutical compounds, we have not managed to cure HIV infection. Novel antiviral therapy, specifically the insertion of genes which endow lymphohematopoietic cells with life-long protection against lentivirus infections, offers a fresh approach to combating HIV infection. We are developing novel, safe and efficient vectors based on a foamy virus to deliver the antiviral genes into relevant cells. Through these novel vectors, antiviral strategies and using animal models for AIDS we will be able to more rapidly determine the efficacy of gene therapy for treatment of HIV infection.
Another area of interest is the role of caveolin in HIV replication. We have determined that caveolin inhibits the HIV replication by transcription repression and modulation of virus production. Studies are in progress to understand the detailed molecular mechanisms of the role caveolin 1 in virus replications and address if it can be utilized as host-targeted intervention therapeutics for HIV and other viruses.
- Gene therapy