HIV/Aids

22 August 2006

How HIV disarms T-cells

When the body's immune system sends T-cells to attack HIV (the virus that causes Aids), the virus disarms the T-cells by flicking a molecular switch on the cells, a US study shows.

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When the body's immune system sends T-cells to attack HIV - the virus that causes Aids - the virus disarms the T-cells by flicking a molecular switch on the cells, according to a US study in the journal Nature.

In laboratory tests, the researchers found a way to jam this switch and restore T-cell function. The findings may lead to more effective treatments for HIV/Aids, BBC News reported.

Drugs not specific enough
There are already drugs available that can do this, but they may not be specific enough and could cause serious side effects, said the study authors. More research needs to be done, they said.

"One has to proceed with real caution because if you turn back on an immune system regulatory switch that the body has decided to turn off, you could trigger serious immunological problems," lead scientist Bruce Walker, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, told BBC News.

For this study, the scientists analysed blood samples from 71 people who'd recently been infected with HIV but had not yet started antiretroviral therapy. The researchers also studied blood samples taken from four HIV-positive patients before and after they started treatment. - (HealthDayNews, August 2006)

Read more:
HIV Centre
How HIV infection begins

 

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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