Whenever I see Magic Johnson, I marvel at the powerful HIV medication available today. He�s still strong and vibrant, even though the former professional basketball player has lived with HIV for over twenty years.
While the AIDS cocktail is a powerful mix of drugs, unfortunately, it still isn�t a cure, because there�s a hidden pool of HIV-infected cells that keeps the virus in the body. If scientists could activate these cells somehow, they might have a shot at eradicating them.
Well, a group of researchers just found a way. It helps to understand that when HIV infects the CD4+T white blood cell, a copy of its genetic information is permanently inserted in the cell genome. Ironically, CD4+T white blood cells are what fight off viral infections in our bodies.
When some of these infected T-cells revert to a resting state, the virus inside goes dormant. Anytime these infected T-cells are reactivated, the virus inside triggers a new round of infection. That�s why HIV patients stay on drugs for life.
In the new study, a drug called Zolinza showed it could activate these dormant cells. Researchers gave Zolinza to six HIV-infected men on drug therapy. They all showed a five-fold increase in the amount of HIV in the cells. This means the latent HIV were activated making it more likely that the immune system will kill off these infected cells.
If you�re wondering whether the extra HIV production in the cells made the patients sicker, it didn�t, because the viral load in the blood did not go up. They were all on HIV drug therapy. This latest discovery offers for the first time in years, a real shot at a cure for AIDS.
For more information…
Drug brings HIV out of hiding
Exposing the latent virus to the immune system may be first step to an elusive cure.
Drug Helps Purge Hidden HIV
ScienceDaily — "A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has successfully flushed latent HIV infection from hiding, with a drug used to treat certain types of lymphoma. Tackling latent HIV in the immune system is critical to finding a cure for AIDS."
Cancer drug shocks HIV out of hiding
Discover — "HIV is an exceptional adversary. It is more diverse than any other virus, and it attacks the very immune cells that are meant to destroy it. If that wasn�t bad enough, it also has a stealth mode. The virus can smuggle its genes into those of long-lived white blood cells, and lie dormant for years..."
HIV in the news now…
Infant's vanquished HIV leaves doctors puzzled
Nature — "Hungry for more details about the child who has apparently been cured of HIV, researchers are puzzling over how it happened and the possible implications for other patients."