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Scientist Presents HIV Research Findings in China

ALBANY, N.Y., Aug 1, 2012—Mario Canki, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Albany Medical College’s Center for Immunology and Microbial Disease, recently traveled to China to present his research on how a component of a common seaweed may be used in a formula to prevent sexual transmission of the HIV virus. 

Dr. Canki has been working with Sargassum fusiforme, a seaweed that frequently washes up on beaches after storms at sea. Known for its antioxidant properties, the algae has historically been an important part of traditional Chinese medicine.

“In our search for novel inhibitors of HIV, we investigated a large number of natural products, and from Sargassum fusiforme we isolated and identified a number of natural small molecules that block HIV, including palmitic acid that in laboratory studies blocked HIV entry into cells,” said Dr. Canki.

The eventual goal of Dr. Canki’s research, which is still in the experimental stages, is to develop a topical prevention gel to prevent HIV that is cheap, safe and easy for women to use intra-vaginally. Keenly aware that 80 percent of all new HIV infections are sexually transmitted and that women represent a disproportionate number of those living with HIV/AIDS, Dr. Canki says that in the absence of an HIV vaccine there is an urgent need for other products, including microbicides, to prevent infection.  He said it could be a number of years before it is ready for human testing in this country.

Dr. Canki told Chinese researchers he believes that combining palmitic acid with other anti-HIV drugs could create a medicine with a “one-two punch” that would not only be effective in blocking  HIV, but would also be low-cost. He said because Sargassum fusiforme is already part of traditional Chinese medicine, it is more likely that the Chinese will make use of it in the fight against AIDS.

In appreciation of Dr. Canki’s visit and ongoing research, researchers at Harbin University of Commerce, College of Pharmacy in Harbin, China appointed him a Visiting Professor.

Dr. Canki also presented his work at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Peking Union Medical College, in Beijing and at the Infectious Disease Center AIDS Clinic at First Affiliated Hospital of Henan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Zhengzhou City. He expects to make more trips to China in the future.

 Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 651-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with 350 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.


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*Questions & Comments:

Sue Ford
Extension: (518) 262 - 3421
  fords@mail.amc.edu



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