What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

How the HAART Drug Cocktail Works

December 1, 2010, 12:00 AM
Cocktail

The first effective anti-retroviral treatment for HIV, Azidothymidine (AZT), was approved for treatment in 1987. But HIV is highly prone to mutations and thus likely to develop drug resistance. It wasn't until researcher David Ho thought to combine three different anti-retrovirals, in what is called a Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment (HAART) cocktail, that AIDS became a truly controllable disease. Below, Ho talks about the "eureka moment" that led his team of researchers to develop HAART.

The HIV virus contains strands of RNA genetic material packaged along with a protein called Reverse Transcriptase. When HIV infects a T-cell (the white blood cells that normally protect the body against cellular invaders), it unloads its RNA into the T-cell. There the Reverse Transcriptase reads and transcribes the single-stranded RNA nucleotide bases into double-stranded viral DNA. Then another protein called Integrase fuses that viral DNA into the cell's genome. That infected DNA is later transcribed back into viral RNA, which is translated into virus proteins. The protein Protease cuts up and packages these proteins into new viruses that rupture from the cell and spread the infection.

HIV Virion-en-2

There are three major classes of drugs that combat HIV at various stages of infection. Today, an effective HIV cocktail therapy will include three or four different types of the following drugs, but the exact regimen varies from person to person.

1. Nucleoside Analog Reverse Transcript Inhibitors (NRTIs) - These drugs, including AZT, disrupt reverse transcription, thereby preventing viral DNA from being created. NRTI's have a similar chemical structure as deoxynucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, and they compete with these naturally-occurring deoxynucleotides to be incorporated into the growing DNA chain during reverse transcription. But when an NRTI is incorporated into viral DNA, it terminates the production of that DNA strand, halting viral DNA synthesis.

2. Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcript Inhibitors (NNRTIs) - These drugs, like NRTIs, halt viral DNA synthesis, but they do so through a different mechanism. NNRTIs target the Reverse Transcriptase enzyme itself, preventing it from transcribing DNA and thereby barring the virus from infecting the cell's genome.

3. Protease Inhibitors (PIs) - Pioneered for use in HIV patients by Ho, these drugs act on cells that have already been infected by viral DNA. PIs inhibit the protein Protease, which is required to produce and package new viruses that emerge from an infected cell and can attack other T-cells.

 

How the HAART Drug Cocktail...

Newsletter: Share: