Researchers Find Possible Genetic Link to HIV Resistance
Researchers from Boston's Center for Blood Research and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reported in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they have identified a "gene variant" that may explain why some people infected with HIV have survived for long periods of time without any sign of infection, the Boston Business Journal reports. A team led by Drs. Anne Goldfeld and Edmond Yunis found that long term HIV patients without symptoms carried two copies of a variation of the HLA-B gene, called HLA-Bw4. HLA-B "encodes" immune system molecules to "capture" any virus that enters the body. Goldfeld and Yunis propose that the variation promotes a greater response from T-cells, the body's "natural killer cells," and are looking for more funding to conduct further research into the link between the variation and T-cell response. The discovery of the HLA-Bw4 variation could give researchers a "more specific lead" in the quest for new AIDS drugs and an HIV vaccine. However, Yunis cautioned that much of the discussion surrounding the variation is "still theoretical." Goldfeld and Yunis are researching the "same phenomena" of latent tuberculosis in Cambodia. Although a third of the world's population is infected with TB, only one in 10 infected people develop symptoms of the disease. They have also found a "strong genetic link" to TB resistance relating to variations in the HLA genes. Because Cambodia has the highest rate of HIV infection in southeast Asia, Goldfeld hopes to study the HLA-HIV link there as well (Connolly, Boston Business Journal, 7/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.