Haven't looked into this to very long, but an initial search didn't return anything.

HIV uses certain co-receptors to enter our cells. Could we flood the blood stream with specially designed proteins that mimic cell receptors, either locking the virus out of vulnerable cells, or even causing the virus to release its genetic material (pre-mature ejc. for viruses... :|), so it can't accidentally get away and infect a cell anyway? It seems like an obvious idea, so the fact that it may not already be happening must mean there are a host of challenges to it? Basically we design a protein that acts like a strait jacket, with tags that allow our body to recognize it as a 'friendly' body. T-cells use the same receptor though, so are there ways to identify a T-cell compared to a HIV virion?

Obviously this wouldn't prevent some viruses managing to infect actual cells, but over time, if we can attack enough, say 2/3 of the virions, for each generation, we could seriously harm the population, and maybe keep it in check?

  • $\begingroup$ Sorta near the mark, but this is a case of virus-on-virus crime: discovermagazine.com/2009/jan/033 It still shows a viable concept for attacking viruses though... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe antibodies. If you could grow large amounts of neutralizing humanized antibodies in cell culture and inject them IV it might help reduce active virus loads. Antibodies would probably have better stability and higher affinity than receptor mimics, and the technology behind them is well developed. And as far as HIV treatment is concerned, small molecule antiretroviral drugs are already pretty good as long as you take them early on in the infection and take them regularly. These can keep viral loads so low that passing the infection to others is very difficult. $\endgroup$
    – user137
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ Here review and here are reviews such approaches. The complex peptide Trimeris/Enfurvitide and small molecule Maraviroc are FDA-approved inhibitors of HIV entry into cells. $\endgroup$
    – PlaysDice
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ This is the whole end goal for vaccines $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 8:17

2 Answers 2


Yes, that should be possible. And it is one of the ways antibodies work. It is already used as a treatment against rabies. There you get a dose of immunoglobulins directed against the rabies virus together with the vaccine. The immunoglobulins neutralize the virus.

The same is possible when you vaccinate against the surface proteins which a virus uses to dock to a cell. With the resulting antibodies this docking is at least hindered if not completely prevented. And there are interesting results from the Ebola research which used a small molecule inhibitor to identify the protein which is important for cell binding of the virus. It is called NPC1, when the receptor on the virus surface is blocked, no docking can take place. This will be one of the approaches to make a therapeutic. See here for more details.

And it is of course possible to design more of the molecules - the problem is to find substances which do not interfere with body functions or which stimulate other pathways.

  • $\begingroup$ Ah...so this HAS already been considered and is actively being researched. I had already run into the idea of the issue with anti-viral medications interfering with our normal bodily functions, oddly enough in an article about Ebola, as you were mentioning. I am very interested in Micro-biology, just haven't taken the time to sit down and learn in depth about it, so I wasn't aware this was how anti-bodies worked. But I was just wondering, with the developments in recomb. genetics, if anyone was researching synthetic drugs. Thanks for your answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 23:48

This approach actually works on almost anything, given enough proteins and nanoscale "griefing".

There was an experiment a few years back where scientists wrapped normal cell membranes around polyurethane beads. The surface looks like a normal cell, allowing it to soak up toxins and trap viruses.

Then there's the offensive approach where proteins are used to block structures on a virus, preventing it from recognizing and entering host cells. Alternately you could include immune-reactive structures on those proteins, painting them for clean-up.

This approach also works on bacteria. Block membrane channels used to get rid of waste, or outright cover the bacteria in sticky garbage "griefing" gunk preventing them from eating. Build exceptionally heavy proteins that bind to bacterial flagella and stop them from moving.

Scale it up to worm parasites. Build proteins that stick to their mouths and refuse to leave. While you're at it, build another set that sticks to the opposite end of the worms' digestive tracts, preventing them from eating or removing waste. It's a major headache and a pain in the behind - at the same time.


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