A chemical extracted from green coffee beans may be a new weapon in the fight against acquired immune deficiency (AIDS). The chemicalchicoric acidcomes from chicory, which is derived from coffee, and is identical to substances found in medicinal plants that Bolivian shamans have used for more than 1,500 years to treat a variety of disorders. When chicoric acid was added to cells that were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it appeared to halt the actions of a key enzyme, HIV integrase, that helps the virus infect cells.
If further experiments prove successful, the researchers findings could lead to the development of an entirely new class of AIDS-fighting drugs. The work was reported by Dr. Edward Robinson, professor of microbiology and pathology at UC Irvine s College of Medicine, and Peter King, a graduate student of microbiology, in the September issue of the Journal of Virology.
Chicoric Acid Inhibits Key Enzyme
Over the past 2 years, studies have shown that mixing various amounts of chicoric acid with extracted HIV integrase slowed the enzymes activity, but until recently researchers were unable to demonstrate that the same anti-HIV action occurred within cells. Human immunodeficiency integrase is one of three key enzymes that allow HIV to infect healthy cells and cause AIDS. The other two enzymes, HIV protease and HIV reverse transcriptase, have for several years been the targets of anti-AIDS cocktails.
Robinson and King found that chicoric acid works by halting the takeover of healthy cells by the HIV virus. Chicoric acid inhibits HIV integrase, the enzyme that aids this process, and grinds the rate of HIV integration to a near-standstill. Stopping the process of integration keeps HIV from reproducing and infecting other cells.
Robinson cautions that chicoric acid is not potent enough to act as an anti-AIDS drug on its own. We want to make a synthetic chemical that inhibits HIV integrase like chicoric acid, but which is more potent than its natural form, so we could use it against the disease in humans, he said.