Researchers Hope to Prevent HIV from Turning to AIDS with Anti-Inflammatory Drug
December 26, 2013 5:16 PM
They also discovered how immune cell death occurs during an HIV infection
Scientists from the Gladstone Institutes have found that limiting (and possibly eventually blocking) the activity of a certain protein can help immune cells survive during
an HIV infection
, the research team has pinpointed each molecular event that occurs when an HIV infection leads to AIDS, which has lead to the use of an existing anti-inflammatory drug to stop that process from happening.
During an HIV infection, a protein known as IFI16 sniffs out fragments of HIV DNA in infected immune cells. This then activates the human enzyme caspase-1 and leads to pyroptosis, which is a highly inflammatory form of cell death.
From there, a repetitive cycle of abortive infection, cell death, inflammation and the pulling in of additional CD4 T-cells to the infection eventually destroys the immune system, leading to AIDS.
The latest study was built on earlier research in 2010 from the lab of Warner C. Greene, MD, PhD, who directs virology and immunology research at Gladstone. At that time, it was found that immune cells commit suicide in an attempt to protect the body after being infected. The suicide is to stop the virus from spreading.
However, this causes destruction of the immune system and causes AIDS.
That's why the more recent Gladstone study aimed to
understand this process
better. With that knowledge, they could possibly stop it from happening. This is key, since the death of CD4 T-cells are the main cause of AIDS.
The research team used human spleen, tonsil and lymph node tissue from HIV-infected patients for the study. They genetically manipulated CD4 T cells in the tissue to identify the DNA sensor that finds fragments of HIV's DNA.
This helped them find that reducing the activity of the protein IFI16 inhibited pyroptosis. However, they can't block it entirely until they know all of its functions.
The team is now entering a Phase 2 trial that will test an existing anti-inflammatory medicine's ability to block inflammation and pyroptosis in those with HIV. They hope that the drug, which targets the body and not the virus, will prevent drug resistance and offer an alternative to antiretroviral medications.
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