Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered how the protein that blocks HIV-1 from multiplying in white blood cells is regulated. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS, and the discovery could lead to novel approaches for addressing HIV-1 “in hiding” — namely eliminating reservoirs of HIV-1 that persist in patients undergoing antiretroviral therapy.
The study was published today in the online edition of the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
Antiretroviral therapy can reduce blood levels of HIV-1 until they are undetectable. But despite drug therapy, reservoirs of HIV-1 can persist in several types of white cells, notably macrophages — important immune cells that help clear pathogens and other potentially harmful substances from the body.
“If you stop antiretroviral therapy, the virus emerges from these reservoirs and returns to the general circulation in a matter of days, as if the patient had never been treated,” said senior author Felipe Diaz-Griffero, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein. “Now we know the protein that we need to control so we can prevent HIV-1 reservoirs from forming or eliminate them entirely.”