Despite the existence of treatments for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a permanent cure for this life-threatening disease has not yet been found. Science Immunology reported that a team of scientists at Monash University in Australia and the Pasteur Institute in Paris had identified a remarkable combination of HIV “super” receptors in cells that can kill the virus in a variety of populations, improving the chances of developing an efficient AIDS treatment.
The trial was carried out on 15 HIV-infected individuals, but with immune systems that shield them from the onset of disease. These individuals, called HIV-positive persons, may possess the potential to develop an effective AIDS treatment.
After infection with HIV, the CD4 T-cells, a significant part of a person’s immune system, can drop dramatically. Antiretroviral drugs, usually given to HIV-infected people, can maintain these cells at normal levels to reduce the mortality rates, but they do not suppress the virus.
Scientists discovered HIV “super” receptors that enhance CD4 T-cells response and could lead to an efficient AIDS treatment
The breakthrough was that HIV “super” receptors could bind better CD4 T-cells and respond to low levels of the virus. They, therefore, give a chance to explore their potential contribution to the healing of the HIV-infected individuals.
CD4 T-cells typically serve as an aid to “killer” CD8 T-cells, which destroy the infected cells. In this fashion, the first ones could turn into the HIV-infected cells killers and a major part of the HIV “super” controllers, the researchers concluded.
T-cell receptors detect HIV particles bound to a specific molecule known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA). These molecules are unique from one individual to another, and aid in recognition of external invaders such as viruses and bacteria by the immune system.
Monash researchers used the Australian Synchrotron to examine the binding of the T-cell super-receptor to the HIV antigen, finding that CD4 T-cells can detect the HIV component in genetically distinct subjects and attach to HLA molecules, commonly found in 25% of the world’s population.
These breakthroughs constitute a significant advance in improving the AIDS treatment.