Researchers Create Three-Dimensional Images of HIV, Healthy Cell Interactions That Could Assist in Drug Development
Scientists have created three-dimensional images showing how HIV "disables" the body's immune system by attaching to CD4 T cells, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Jai-huai Wang, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, said that the research allows scientists to "piece together an exact picture of a key part of the process by which the immune system is alerted to the disease, and to understand how HIV subverts that process." Scientists used x-ray crystallography to collect the images of CD4 T cells and HIV interacting. The researchers showed that when HIV is present, viral protein gp120 binds to CD4 T-cell co-receptors "more strongly" than immune system cells called class II MHCs, leading scientists to conclude that "HIV creates a stronger bond with T cells than normal, infection-fighting cells ... allow[ing] HIV to thrive" by inhibiting a response from the immune system. Wang believes these "detailed pictures" will assist researchers to develop drugs "that target HIV in the early stages of infection" (Reuters Health, 9/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.