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High Levels of Vitamin C Prove Toxic to HIV

also take in higher-than-normal levels of glucose and vitamin C. In the new study, led by Dr. Coralia Rivas and Dr. Juan Carlos Vera of Memorial Sloan-Ketterings Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics Program, the researchers studied the effects of vitamin C in four HIV-infected cell lines and four identical, but uninfected, immune cell lines. They found that compared with the healthy cells, the HIV-infected cells:

  • have greater numbers of specialized cell-surface receptors through which glucose and vitamin C enter;
  • experience a three- to five-fold increase in the uptake of vitamin C in the form of dehydroascorbic acid; and
  • accumulate two to three times more vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid.

We noticed that shortly after infection with HIV, the cells put out more glucose-transport molecules on their surfaces, which allow more vitamin C to enter, Dr. Golde said. HIV-infected cells seem to want more glucose and vitamin C. But if they take in too much vitamin C, they die.

When the researchers exposed both HIV-infected and healthy immune cells to varying levels of vitamin C, they observed a range of effects. At levels of vitamin C comparable to those normally found in the body, the nutrient either had no effect or caused a slight increase in viral replication. But exposure to high vitamin C levels more than 20 times greater than normal decreased replication of the AIDS virus and was generally more toxic to HIV-infected cells than to the uninfected cells.

Such high blood levels of vitamin C cant be achieved by taking it orally because most supplemental vitamin C is excreted in the urine, Dr. Golde said. He and his colleagues are planning follow-up studies of vitamin Cs effects in patients infected with the AIDS virus.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is the worlds oldest and largest private institution devoted to prevention, patient care, research, and education in cancer. Throughout its long, distinguished history,
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Contact: Stacey Harris
harriss@mskcc.org
212-639-3628
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
4-Mar-1997


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