PITTSBURGH, Penn., June 24--Researchers have focused extensively on suppressing viral levels in AIDS patients. But to effectively control HIV, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) are emphasizing the need to also boost the virus-killing capability of a small but potent group of immune cells, CD8 T cells, also referred to as killer T cells, to establish long-term immunity against HIV-1.
Findings presented by Charles Rinaldo, Ph.D., on June 29, at the 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, are the first to demonstrate even small numbers of killer T cells present in late-stage AIDS patients after triple therapy can be activated against HIV-1. To achieve this anti-HIV-1 effect, researchers treated another group of immune cells called dendritic cells (DCs) with HIV-1 proteins and interleukin-12 (IL-12).
Exposing DCs to viral proteins enables them to study the structure and then teach other immune cells to identify any cell infected with these HIV-1 proteins. While the DCs are inspecting the proteins they release substances like IL-12, which stimulate immune cells to multiply and attack foreign substances.
"This indicates that we may be able to enhance the body's response to the virus, which is very exciting because it suggests that with some prodding and priming, we may be able to train the immune system to ward off further attacks by HIV," remarked Dr. Rinaldo, who is the chairman of the department of infectious diseases and microbiology at Pitt's GSPH.
Previous studies have shown that combining protease inhibitors with two reverse transcriptase inhibitors does not completely eliminate HIV from the body, nor does triple therapy offer patients full protection from the virus if they discontinue the drugs or expose themselves to repeated infections of HIV.
"If we can permanently boost a patient's immunity to HIV, we could
eventually discontinue the co
Contact: Amy Kemp
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center