New Potential Route to a Cure for HIV/AIDS
So much of the early research in finding a cure for HIV pointed towards the virus’s ability to lie dormant in the immune system of a host’s body, and scientists started believing a cure for the virus was impossible. Many decided, with this idea, to only focus their research on stopping the replication process of the virus cells and maintaining a healthy state of those infected. Some, though, still try novel ways to eliminate this difficult virus, as it can stay undetectable for years and suddenly resurface and eradicate the infected person’s immune system. In fact, one group of researchers has made some wonderful discoveries about which cells in the body the virus hides, once again paving a potential route to a cure for HIV. Most have concluded that the cells HIV usually hides in are our CD4 cells – also known as helper T cells – and since these are integral for our immune system to do its job, there was little we could do to eliminate the virus from those cells and the body as a whole. Surprisingly, this group of researchers has found another type of cell in which the virus may hide, one that is much more vulnerable to medical treatment and manipulation.
The research was lead by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in Emory University, as it involved monkeys that were infected by Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), which is essentially a sister virus to HIV that affects primates. Researchers examined these primates before and after infection, and in some they removed the helper T cells that many believe is the main focus for HIV’s attack. When they were removed, the virus cells attacked immune system cells called macrophages, which naturally have a much shorter lifespan than helper T cells. This is significant because the three-day lifespan of the macrophages is much less than an average helper T cell, meaning it would be difficult for the HIV cells to lie dormant for their required few weeks (minimum) to continue their replication process. This possible route to a cure for HIV means that we can now think of different methods to eradicate HIV, and no longer be bound to only the antiretroviral medications currently used to keep it at bay.