News / Health

Scientists Discover Mechanism of Immune System Cell Death in AIDS

AIDS virus
AIDS virus
Jessica Berman
Scientists have discovered that the AIDS virus destroys the immune system by infecting a relatively few number of cells that create a fiery pathway that consumes nearby cells. Finding could lead to treatments to dampen disease activity.

Scientists have long known that HIV sets up little biological factories inside the the body's protective CD-4 T cells they infect, producing millions of copies that eventually lead to a massive destruction of the immune system. Until now, investigators have not understood why the virus becomes so aggressive.

It turns out HIV, which infects only a small number of T cells at the start, destroys approximately 95 percent of immune cells through a process known as the bystander effect.

Warner Greene, head of virology and immunology at the Gladstone Institutes in California, says bystander cells that are in the neighborhood of HIV-infected cells succumb to a fiery death.

“Most CD4-T cells during HIV infection die not because of the toxic effect of the virus, but because of an immune response against the virus.  So, CD4 cell depletion is more of a suicide than a murder," said Greene.

Gladstone scientists have discovered that the bystander cells become massively inflamed, releasing a protein called capcaisin-1 that recruits other immune system T cells to the site of the infection to try to put out the fire.  But the new cells also become inflamed and self-immolate.  

That turns out to be good news in the sense that inflammation can be quelled with existing drug compounds.

Greene says researchers have tested three agents in the laboratory, including one developed to treat epilepsy.  He says all three compounds have worked very well to manage the inflammation.

While anti-inflammatory drugs would not be a cure for the AIDS virus, Greene says they could potentially keep the disease in check in some 16 million people worldwide infected with HIV who can’t access antiretroviral drugs but may in the future.  Greene also envisions using anti-inflammatory compounds in combination with anti-AIDS drugs.

“Perhaps with people who have rapidly progressive disease, perhaps for people who are failing current antiretroviral therapy, they would go on this treatment.  And even people who are well-controlled on antiretroviral therapy, we know there is chronic, persistent inflammation," he said.

Such inflammation can cause heart disease and cancer in HIV-infected individuals at an early age.

Warner Greene and colleagues report their findings in the journals Nature and Science.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid