HIV Warded Off by Protein, Research Shows
The immune system tries to prevent the spread of HIV by deploying a certain protein throughout the body, scientists have discovered. According to Medical News Today, co-lead investigator Nathaniel Landau and his team at NYU Langone Medical Center believe their findings could open up new paths for slowing HIV’s progression to AIDS.
“A lot of research on viruses, especially HIV, is aimed at trying to understand what the body’s mechanisms of resistance are and then to understand how the virus has gotten around these mechanisms,” Landau said.
According to him and his colleagues, one of the body’s mechanisms of resistance is a protein called SAMHD1. Cells containing this protein have been able to protect themselves from HIV infection by destroying pools of deoxynucleotide triphosphates (dNTPs)—molecular material that instructs the cell on how to make more genes of the virus.
“SAMHD1 essentially starves the virus,” Landau explained. “The virus enters the cell and then nothing happens. It has nothing to build and replicate with, so no DNA is made.”
As a result, researchers believe HIV has started to avoid cells with SAMHD1, so as to avoid detection by the body’s immune system. Landau believes if scientists can understand how SAMHD1 works, new paths to fighting HIV may open up.
“This is a very exciting time in HIV research,” he said. “Many of the virus’ secrets are being revealed through molecular biology, and we’re learning a tremendous amount about how our immune system works through the study of HIV.”