|Scientists discover how HIV kills immune cells|
|Will the new discovery help find the cure?|
|Published Wednesday, June 12, 2013|
Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have made a historic discovery about the way HIV kills immune cells.
It is common knowledge that HIV infects and kills cells in the human body that fight off infection, but until now scientists did not know how.
“What this study does for the first time, in now more than 30 years of study, is show that it’s a precise molecular triggering signal that causes the cell to die,” said Anthony Fauci M.D., director of NIAID, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
HIV replicates inside immune cells through a process that includes putting its genes into the cell’s DNA. Scientists have learned that during this process, an enzyme is activated and does something out of the ordinary. Instead of putting the strands of DNA back together, the enzyme puts out a signal that tells the immune cell to die. That kills the very cells that are supposed to fight the infection.
All of this means that researchers have a target. They can now work on developing more treatments that focus on the early replication of the disease. The key is to stop HIV from working itself into the DNA of immune cells and ending HIV’s activation of the enzyme. Doing this will stop HIV from gaining strength and killing off the infection-fighting cells.
Fauci said treatments like those are already accessible to the public.
“We already have drugs that actually can block the ability of the viral DNA to integrate itself into the cell DNA. So, it really is the molecular explanation for something that we’ve been observing for a long time,” he said. “Whether or not it will have any practical applicability in the reasonable future is very difficult to predict.”
This discovery can also answer why HIV-infected cells can lay dormant and can continually cause problems for those infected.
Fauci explained that this discovery is about understanding HIV more than anything else.
“This is a very important incremental step on the way to understanding more about HIV,” Fauci said. “And the more that you understand, the better chance you have to develop countermeasures to block that, be it in a vaccine, or be it in a new drug or be it in a way to preserve cells from getting killed.
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|Posted on August 16, 2013|
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