"Our findings show potential for flushing HIV out of its hiding places in the body," said Dr. Jerome Zack, principal investigator and associate director of basic sciences for the UCLA AIDS Institute. "If our method proves successful, it may enable HIV-infected individuals to discontinue costly and complex antiretroviral therapy, which can cause serious side effects."
"Immune cells can't kill HIV if they can't detect it," said Dr. David Brooks, a postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study. "By switching on an HIV-positive person's dormant virus, we hope to enable the immune system to recognize and eradicate HIV-infected cells before they spread more virus."
Antiretroviral drugs kill HIV, often depleting the virus to undetectable levels in the blood of people taking the medications. This treatment alone, however, cannot completely eliminate HIV infection from the body.
Latent, or hibernating HIV, still hides in resting T-cells, which quietly lie in wait for a foreign particle to invade the immune system. When a foreign invasion occurs, the event activates some of the T-cells, which promptly begin manufacturing virus. And, when an HIV-infected person discontinues antiretroviral drugs, this small reservoir of latently infected T-cells can rekindle the spread of HIV infection throughout the body.
"About one in a million T-cells holds latent HIV that the antiretroviral drugs can't touch," said Zack, a professor of medicine and vice chair of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our challenge was to make latent HIV vulne
Contact: Elaine Schmidt
University of California - Los Angeles