According to the University of Rochester Medical Center (USA) and the Cochin Institute (France), research has found that some cells have a natural protection against the HIV virus. Scientists have long suspected that some cells have an inbuilt resistance to the Human Immunodeficiency vVrus. Finally, research methods have developed to the point where they can prove it.
Studies underway around the world have found that a critical protein found in certain cells may protect against the invasion of the HIV virus. This finding is another building block in the work researchers are doing to find better ways to fight the spread of this virus. This finding is also a building block that may help with fighting other viruses such as the herpes family. Understanding this piece of the puzzle can help scientists learn how to fight certain infections better and possibly how to stop the spread of the virus.
The protein in question is the SAMHD1. It appears naturally, as part of the white blood cells known as macrophages as well as in the related dendritic cells. That protein helps to prevent the HIV-1 virus from invading the macrophages. The HIV-1 virus is the most virulent form of the virus known. Further research though has shown the SAMHD1 protein is a natural destroyer of the raw material that makes DNA building block. The HIV-1 replicates itself using this raw material known as dNTP. Where the SAMHD1 protein is found in abundance, the HIV-1 virus has extreme difficulty in replicating itself.
The HIV-2 virus appears to have a natural ability to destroy the SAMHD1 protein. This form of the virus is more frequently found on the continent of Africa. It has a protein known as Vpx that destroys the SAMHD1 protein. Despite this natural resistance, the HIV-2 virus is less virulent than the HIV-1 form. That mystery is a line that researchers are studying for new insights in how these proteins interact.
The results of this study is published this month in the Nature Immunology journal and highlights a fantastic collaboration between different scientists from different countries. Although this work is still far from practical implications for patients, it is first necessary to completely decipher the interactions between the HIV virus and the different parts of the immune system.
These authors hope that further research will help identify ways to reduce drug resistance among patients and to make drug treatments more effective.