May 7, 2015

Lee lab pursues clues to HIV, flu in the moment of infection

Image of Nancy Horn and James Williams work with Med Chem Asst Professor Kelly Lee

Nancy Horn and James Williams work with Med Chem Asst Professor Kelly LeeAlex Levine Photography

In a basement lab deep within the Magnuson Health Sciences Building, a group of scientists works to decode the mysteries of two deadly viruses: influenza and HIV. Led by Kelly Lee, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, they examine the viral fusion proteins found on the outside of “enveloped viruses” – viruses with membranes.

Kelly Lee is an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy. These proteins activate the fusion of disease-causing pathogens and host cells. During fusion, enveloped viruses merge their membranes with those of host cells to penetrate, and infect, the cell.

Proteins attached to the HIV virus membrane attempt to fuse with host cells.

Proteins attached to the HIV virus membrane attempt to fuse with host cells.ThinkStock

“We know how the proteins look before they carry out their function,” Lee said, “but we need to understand the structural changes that occur during fusion.”

By doing so, the lab hopes to develop more effective vaccines that will work with the body’s immune system to recognize and neutralize the harmful viruses.

Read the full story on UW’s Health Science NewsBeat.

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