DEC 12, 2018 4:26 PM PST

Switch HIV Infection

WRITTEN BY: Nicholas Breehl

The human immunodeficiency virus continues to be a threat to a large population of people today. No effective cure exists for HIV. Even with preventative treatment and medical care after infection, the transfer and persistence of the virus can endure. Latent HIV infection remains elusive to the immune system allowing for it to thrive undetected in the body.

In a recently shared study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, performed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, data suggest that a genetic switch that causes latent HIV infected cells to begin to replicate can be manipulated to eradicate the virus from the body completely. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These specialized cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body.

The researchers share that, “the reservoir of HIV latently infected cells is the major obstacle for complete eradication of HIV infection. Latency and its transactivation in HIV-infected cells are controlled by the intracellular HIV Tat gene circuit.”

"We need to understand better the mechanisms that regulate HIV latency, so we can identify new opportunities for intervention and develop better drugs that can either lock viral particles in a latent state, or kill latent cells, or both," shared Liang, Professor of Bioengineering.

The scientists display that a genetic switch can be utilized as a cure for HIV infection. When HIV infects the genome of a cell, the Tat gene circuit controls the transcription of the viral DNA. As the Tat gene activates HIV, the cell becomes overburden with the virus and explodes, effectively permitting the infection of neighboring cells. The Tat gene is switched off during latent HIV infection.

"By targeting the Tat gene circuit with drugs or small molecules to activate it, we would be able to cause latently-infected cells to start producing more virus, and then they can be destroyed by the immune system," said Jie Liang, the Richard and Loan Hill Professor of Bioengineering in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Engineering and a lead author of the paper. To date the drugs that aim for the tat gene to make these purposed changes.

The team finds that the Tat gene’s activation and inactivation is a spontaneous event and that its reactivation is rare. By making use of algorithms and models, their team was able to accurately map the probability of different reactions that cause Tat activation. The results of their studies provide new ways of targeting latent cells that may lead to the eradication of the HIV.

"Our results suggest that by controlling HIV latency through manipulation of the Tat gene circuit, effective therapeutic strategies can be identified that would one day provide a cure for HIV," Liang said.

Sources: PNAS, Science Daily, CDCYouTube

About the Author
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2020
Immunology
Immune Cells and MS: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe
OCT 01, 2020
Immune Cells and MS: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe
Much like electrical wires that are encased in plastic insulating sheaths, nerve cells also are also surrounded by a sim ...
OCT 26, 2020
Immunology
Gearing up for Life: The First 7 Days of the Immune System
OCT 26, 2020
Gearing up for Life: The First 7 Days of the Immune System
The mother’s placenta serves as a shield for the developing fetus inside the womb, protecting it from the constant ...
NOV 05, 2020
Immunology
Awakening Ancient DNA to Kill Cancer
NOV 05, 2020
Awakening Ancient DNA to Kill Cancer
In a recent study published in Nature, scientists from the University of Toronto described the discovery of ancient DNA ...
NOV 12, 2020
Immunology
Anti-bodies against a sugar present in meat and dairy products can increase the risk of Colorectal Cancer
NOV 12, 2020
Anti-bodies against a sugar present in meat and dairy products can increase the risk of Colorectal Cancer
Nutrition is essential to health; what we eat in our daily diet affects our overall health condition and what diseases w ...
JAN 06, 2021
Immunology
Probiotic Boosters Are Lifesavers for Preterm Babies
JAN 06, 2021
Probiotic Boosters Are Lifesavers for Preterm Babies
When administered shortly after birth, a recent study has found that the supplementation combo of probiotics and prebiot ...
JAN 19, 2021
Immunology
How Breastfeeding improves Infants Immunity?
JAN 19, 2021
How Breastfeeding improves Infants Immunity?
Breastfeeding benefits are well known for ages, and it has many positive impacts on infant's lives that continue wit ...
Loading Comments...