A group of Spanish scientists have managed to synthesize and produce a super-refined and powerful natural antioxidant agent that is found in olives that may revolutionize the prevention of HIV/AIDS infection. A molecule that was developed and patented by Seprox, a Spanish biotechnological firm, will be tested in apes in a two-year study financed by the European Commission. It is expected that the study, which received 2 million euros in funding, may ultimately advance to clinical trials among human subjects. The study will commence in October 2012 and will be coordinated by the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid.
Hydroxytyrosol, the newly developed molecule, is the most potent natural antioxidant now known. It is extracted from the leaves of the olive tree and its fruit. However, the molecule is found in only very small quantities in extra-virgin olive oil and varies from one oil to another. The molecule, along with other phenols compounds, produces the naturally bitter taste found in olives.
Seprox has found a way to synthesize the molecule with chemicals and enzymes into an extraordinarily pure form, allowing for production on an industrial scale. José Alcamí, who leads the Immunological Unit for AIDs for the Spanish National Microbiology Center, said that “This is an entirely new and pioneering substance, as much for its mechanism for actions as it is for its chemical and molecular structure, since it combines two different mechanisms to address HIV: direct anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activity.”
While the manner in which the molecule function is still not well known, according to Alcamí it may block HIV from entering human cells. Unlike the drugs now used to fight HIV/AIDS, which resists retroviral agents, the hydroxytyrosol molecule actually active in fighting the virus, said the scientist.
The forthcoming project intends to achieve four goals: defining the antiviral mechanisms of the molecule, defining its anti-inflammatory characteristics; formulation of a composite; and a trial involving macaques as subjects. Alcamí believes that the molecule shows great promise, as does Seprox manager Eduardo Gómez Acebo, who asserts that it is a ”a good candidate” even while that it must still surmount a series of obstacles. The first obstacle to surmount will be in proving the 100% efficacy and tolerance for the drug among humans. Currently, microbiocidal treatment for HIV/AIDS has only a 40 percent efficacy. Alcamí pointed out that several microbiocides could be used in concert in order to boost effectiveness. He also pointed out that some 90 percent of medications currently used come from plants.