Home pagePress monitoringHIV kill switch clears out dormant virus in human cells

HIV kill switch clears out dormant virus in human cells

Date: 27.9.2019 

Several major strides have been made towards a cure for HIV in recent years, and now, researchers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) may have found a new potential target. In lab tests, the team identified a cellular “switch” that could be turned off to clear out the virus lying dormant inside cells.

Kredit: CDC.Currently, people with HIV undergo a life-long treatment called antiretroviral therapy, which suppresses symptoms and keeps the infection from developing into AIDS. But it isn’t a full cure – the virus can lay dormant inside a patient’s cells, ready to start multiplying again if the treatment is ever stopped.

Finding ways to kill the virus while it lays dormant is the holy grail of HIV research, and now the UCSD team says it’s a step closer to a cure. They found that a particular RNA molecule appears to be elevated in people with HIV, and in tests on cultured cells they showed that silencing or removing it prevented HIV from recurring after antiretroviral therapy was stopped.

The molecule is what’s known as a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), meaning it doesn’t encode for proteins but instead helps control the switching of genes on and off within a cell. The team has dubbed this particular molecule HIV-1 Enhanced LncRNA (HEAL). Interestingly, the HEAL gene appears to have emerged fairly recently, and it regulates HIV replication in immune cells.

“This is one of the key switches that the HIV field has been searching for three decades to find,” says Tariq Rana, an author of the study. “The most exciting part of this discovery has not been seen before. By genetically modifying a long noncoding RNA, we prevent HIV recurrence in T cells and microglia upon cessation of antiretroviral treatment, suggesting that we have a potential therapeutic target to eradicate HIV and AIDS.”





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