Blood can be broken down into four different components. Each has its own unique functions. The platelet has recently attracted attention due to fantastic discoveries on the HIV front. It would seem that the humble platelet, credited with clotting properties, has a knack for defense. How does it work? What does this new research mean for those who suffer from HIV?

Platelets are tiny particles that can morph when activated. Upon activation, they release certain substances, one being a specific messenger protein. This protein, known as CXCL4, is adept at blocking the HIV virus. There are two types of HIV, type 1 and type 2. CXCL4 is effective against HIV-1. Currently it seems as though there is no effect on HIV-2. HIV-1, however, is the most prolific type and progression is more aggressive. More research is needed to find out why this is.

The function of platelets has long been recorded and studied. This new information, however, is shedding light on some facts that were not known before. According to the study, activated platelets form a type of barrier against HIV-1. Thus the spread of the disease is severely restricted. It is estimated that this has the potential to radically decrease the rate of spreading the infection in patients. Exactly why the platelets have proved to be so effective is still a mystery. The suppression of the viral activity could have great implications for the future of HIV treatment. More study is needed, but for now these findings are promising. Another area that researchers are looking into is that of the function of CXCL4. Identifying how and why this isolated protein works will hopefully lead to discovering other similar antivirals.

As for the other strains of HIV, type 2 and the simian variety (or SIV), CXCL4 so far has little or no effect. With further research, scientists are hoping to unlock the platelet’s secrets. With this exciting new information being brought to light, it is hoped that HIV and its spread can be slowed or even stopped. For now, time and more experimenting are needed.