According to two articles published in Nature and Science the scientists at Gladstone have identified a chain of events that occurs in the human body when it is infected with the HIV virus. The chain of events leads to the death of the immune systems CD4 cells. It is the depletion of the body’s CD4 cells which marks the progression of HIV to AIDS.
The scientists also identified an anti-inflammatory drug that is able to block the death of the CD4 cells. Further clinical trials will reveal if the drug, or others similar to it, will be able to prevent the sequence that causes AIDS.
The research was conducted by Dr. Warner C. Greene, Director of Virology and Immunology Research at Gladstone.
Gladstone Institutes is a nonprofit organization which focuses in biomedical research. The research is aimed at understanding, preventing, treating, and curing a number of conditions.
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a viral infection characterized by the destruction of CD4 cells. The human immune system is the body’s main defense against infections. The CD4 or T-cells are its “generals”. When a virus or bacteria enters the body, CD4 cells send signals to alert the rest of the immune system that an invasion is occurring. By attacking CD4 cells the HIV virus is able to prevent the immune system from being alerted, thereby allowing it to occupy the human body without resistance.
According to the research conducted by Dr. Greene’s laboratory, it is the body’s own response to HIV that leads to the demise of the CD4 cells. “More of a suicide than a murder,” is how Greene describes it.
The discoveries made by Dr. Greene and colleagues mark great advancement in the field of AIDS research. The potential therapy identified in the study is said to be able to block the succession of HIV to AIDS. Greene’s research also helps scientists improve on current anti-retroviral drugs.
The drug identified in Greene’s study was developed to treat epilepsy. When tested in the laboratory, the results were promising. The drug, which is not yet on the market, has the potential to block the enzyme known as IFI16. This is the enzyme reported to be the DNA sensor responsible for identifying the HIV virus and which initiates the destructive response that ensues.
At this point clinical trials with the drug are still in the talking stage. Past studies show that its use was not harmful in humans. The success of future studies may be useful for people with forms of HIV that are resistant to standard drugs currently in use. It may also be used to hold off development of the disease in people who are unable to obtain standard drugs.
There are millions people living with HIV in the United States. Use of current therapies, including anti-retroviral drugs, has made it possible for people with HIV to live long lives.
AIDS is the final stage of the disease, characterized by a decrease in CD4 cells, which then leaves the body vulnerable to diseases and infections it would not contract in a healthier state. These infections are known as opportunistic infections.
Once a person advances from HIV to AIDS their life expectancy decreases drastically. According to the CDC, people with untreated AIDS may expect to live up to 3 years.
The findings made by Dr. Greene are important to the advance of AIDS research. With this new information, AIDS progression may be blocked. It is even possible that this new drug could eliminate the virus from the body.
By Earnestine Jones