Soybean ingredient may fight the HIV virus in a new and powerful way

August 13, 2013

     There are sensors on the outside of our cells that tell the cell about its environment and allow communication between it and other cells. These same sensors allow the cell to communicate from its surface into its interior. The HIV virus that can progress into AIDS uses some of these surface sensors to trick the cell to send signals inside. These signals change the cell structure so that the virus can get inside and spread the infection.  Tyrosine kinase is an enzyme that is needed for this cellular communication and the virus relies on its activity.

Soy beans contain powerful antioxidants called Isoflavones. One of these in particular called Genistein inhibits the tyrosine kinase enzyme on the outside of the cell (this is also one of the ways that soy Isoflavones inhibit the process in certain cancers).

Dr Yuntao Wu is a professor at George Mason University near Washington DC in the Department of Molecular and Microbiology. Dr Yu is also a Professor the University based National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases. Dr Yu is familiar with the ability of the HIV virus to mutate and become resistant to the cocktail of antiviral drugs used to treat it.

Dr Yu has found that Genistein blocks the ability of the HIV virus to enter the cell by blocking the activity of tyrosine kinase. Because Genistein works on the cell and not on the virus directly it would be hard for the virus to overcome this effect helping to prevent viral resistance. Because Genistein works differently than the drugs it may also be useful as adjunctive therapy. Unfortunately because of budget cuts at the National Institute of Health Dr. Wu’s research is slowed but this early research points to Genistein as being an effective HIV treatment without the drug resistance and toxicity issues faced by current drug therapies. Dr Wu cautions that the amount of Genistein that can be consumed by eating soy may not be sufficient to inhibit the HIV virus.