Experts at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) may have just made a critical discovery related to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). They say that they have discovered the genetic secret to why some people who get the virus never go on to develop AIDS.
The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a very dangerous diseases, which renders the human immune system incapable of defending the body against other intruders. Even the common cold becomes a large threat.
The condition affects millions of people around the world, and many of them die on account of this disease each year. But some HIV carriers never go on to develop AIDS, and researchers have been wondering how is it that this happens for many years.
Now, in a groundbreaking new study, the team put together a group of 974 “HIV controls,” and analyzed them from a genetic point of view. The work may have yielded what the team was looking for, the scientist say.
Individuals who are able to control HIV are less contagious than their peers who go on to develop AIDS, and can stave off symptoms associated with the disease for many years, sometimes even forever.
Therefore, the team assumed that studying them might lead an answer to the mystery of their immunity. This is why the performed the new genome-wide association analysis.
The results were compared to the ones obtained from looking at 2,648 patients who had developed AIDS after being infected with HIV. Details of the work appear in the latest issue of the top journal Science, Technology Review reports.
“Of the three billion nucleotides in the human genome, it really comes down to just a handful that relate to a particular function of the immune system that makes the difference,” explains one of the two lead researchers on the investigation, MGH virologist Bruce Walker.
“There have been lots of theories that these controllers might be manifestations of multiple mechanisms. This tends to focus the field,” adds expert Warner Greene, who was not a part of the work.
He holds an appointment as the director of the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology.
“I think this gives us really important insights into the type of reactions that occur during the immune response that lead to high-level control of HIV,” Greene goes on to say.
“If we had a vaccine that would make everybody a controller – that would be spectacular,” he concludes.