‘Naturally Occurring’ Protein Fights Hidden HIV, Canadian Researchers Show
A "naturally occurring" protein might be able to reduce to undetectable HIV that is hiding in dormant immune cells, Canadian researchers report in the Nov. 15 issue of Virology, the Ottawa Citizen reports. Although HIV kills T cells, some of the infected cells do not die immediately and instead remain dormant, creating a reservoir in which HIV can hide. Current antiretroviral drugs slow the virus' reproduction and spread throughout the body, but the treatments are unable to reach HIV hiding in dormant T cells. To find a way to kill off "hidden" HIV, Dr. Andrew Badley, a clinician investigator at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and colleagues examined the effects of a molecule manufactured by Seattle-based Immunex Corp., known as tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, or TRAIL, on blood samples from seven HIV-positive Ottawa patients. TRAIL, a protein normally produced by the body's immune cells that kills abnormal cells but has no harmful effects on healthy cells, eliminated HIV in four of the seven blood samples. Badley said, "It is the first time we have been able to demonstrate we can eradicate (HIV) from their cells in a test tube. We hope that means we can eradicate it from the body. But we don't know that yet. But it's a significant step." Researchers hope to begin testing the therapy on humans within the next one to two years (Kirkey, Ottawa Citizen, 11/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.