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Mario Lopez

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MIAMI LIVING 95 HEALTH Resident ML MAG HIV/AIDS expert Filippo von Schloesser recently attended a two- day conference in Barcelona, Spain organized and financed by Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GSI), where he addressed a group of physicians and counselors on the subject titled, Your Body Shape. "This topic directly relates to the fact that the HIV infection is a multidisciplinary disease," von Schloesser explained. "For example, how the liver works in the presence of antiretrovirals is just as important as taking care of one's bone density, and how the heart is affected by the chronic inflammation and lipid abnormalities caused by the disease is something that cannot be ignored." The presentation covered "the risks of changes due to lipodystrophy (LD), how LD can be part of a metabolic syndrome, how to prevent it in terms of treatment choices, how to surgically treat the lipoatrophy, the importance of a balanced diet, and exercising with resistance weights and equipment for lipoatrophy and a great deal of aerobic exercise for lipohypertrophy," he said. GSI opened in 1987 and has gone through a series of transformations. Recently, its scientists have been focusing on discovery research on small strands of DNA to assess the potential of genetic code blockers. It turns out that scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill (UNC) have also been attempting similar research. Three months after the conference in Spain, researchers at UNC made an amazing discovery. They found HIV's genetic information to be contained in a more complicated structure other than viruses. Most genomes carry a genetic code as a double-stranded long-chain molecule DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), unlike HIV, which carries it as a single-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid). "To simplify, the discovery opened a lot of avenues toward understanding the tools needed in order to paralyze the virus," von Schloesser pointed out. "Therefore, I am confident that eventually we will know more about the virus' behavior, giving us more tools to fight against it." Ron Swanstrom, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the scientists who joined the team for further analysis. "One approach is to change the RNA sequence and see if the virus notices," Swanstrom said. "If it doesn't grow as well when you disrupt the virus with mutations, then you know you've mutated or affected something that was important to the virus." Kevin Weeks, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in the UNC's College of Arts and Sciences added, "We're finally understanding the tricks the genome uses to help the virus escape detection by the human host." It appears that GSI and the UNC's research scientists are on the same wavelength of attempting to understand and treat HIV/AIDS. The name and logo of GSI is based on a location in the Old Testament famous for its small trees that produced a resin named the "Balm of Gilead", which is considered to be the first pharmaceutical product. GSI has five marketed products and focuses its research and clinical programs on anti- infectives, including antivirals, antifungals and antibacterials. It's headquartered in Foster City, CA. UNC ranks fifth, nine-years in a row, among the nation's best public universities according to U.S. News & World Report magazine's list. In addition to Swanstrom and Weeks, Julian Bess, Christina Burch, Ph.D., Kristen Dang, Ph.D., Robert Gorelick, Ph.D., and Christopher Leonard all contributed to making this historical groundbreaking discovery. "Scientists have decoded the entire genetic structure of the HIV virus," von Schloesser said. "The importance of this discovery cannot be overestimated as this breakthrough is the starting place to understanding the AIDS infection and to developing new antiviral drugs." ML HIV Report with Filippo von Schloesser What Scientists Have Recently Discovered About the HIV Virus Words by Marla E. Schwartz

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