Researchers Discover Gene in HIV Used To Undermine Immune System
Researchers at the University of Utah and the University of Rochester have discovered a gene in HIV that works to stop white blood cell replication and suppresses the immune system, according to a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Scripps Howard/Washington Times reports (Scripps Howard/Washington Times, 8/24). The VPR gene, one of nine genes in HIV, activates the ATR gene in white blood cells, which prevents the infection-fighting cells from replicating, according to the Salt Lake Tribune (Hamilton, Salt Lake Tribune, 8/22). This "hijack[ing]" of the ATR gene in white blood cells eventually disables the immune system and leaves individuals vulnerable to opportunistic infections and cancer, according to the Salt Lake City Deseret News (Jarvik, Salt Lake City Deseret News, 8/22). The researchers said that new treatments for HIV/AIDS could be developed if scientists discover a way to prevent the VPR gene from activating ATR, according to the Tribune. "We would like to find a method or a substance that would allow us to interfere with the ability of HIV to kill the white blood cells using this mechanism," Vincente Planelles of the University of Utah said. Developing such new treatments will likely take five to 10 years, according to the Tribune (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.