EASY-HIT** is a new cell-based assay system for simple and reliable testing of HIV inhibitors. This system was developed under the leadership of Professor Ruth Brack-Werner at the Institute of Virology. At the heart of the system are cultured human cells that allow HIV to enter and replicate efficiently and that signal HIV infection by producing a red fluorescent protein. The EASY-HIT technology can be used to identify HIV-inhibitors, measure the potency of their inhibitory activity and to detect the stage of replication targeted by the inhibitor.

The researchers validated their technology with a panel of currently used anti-HIV drugs and then went on to identify 5 new HIV inhibitors. They also showed that this technology can be used to detect anti-HIV activities in raw plant extracts. The researchers are currently using this system to explore numerous biological specimens for anti-HIV activities and have already discovered novel unexpected sources of antiviral activities.

Stephan Kremb, first author of the manuscript, summarizes, "We expect the versatile and robust EASY-HIT system to identify new targets against HIV and new sources of HIV-inhibitors". "Our technology has many applications in HIV research and pharmaceutical drug design", adds Ruth Brack-Werner.

HIV was first discovered in the early 1980s and described as the causative agent of AIDS. As there is no cure for HIV infection as yet, HIV-infected individuals require life-long treatment with antiviral drugs. The problems with currently available therapies include drug side-effects, the emergence of resistant viruses and the cost of long-term treatment. "It is our particularly hope that the EASY-HIT technology will promote the development of new strategies for HIV treatment in areas with limited resources", states Ruth Brack-Werner.