To develop treatments that could one day completely rid the body of HIV infection, researchers have for many years been trying to identify all the “places” where the virus can hide its genetic code. Now, in a study using blood samples from HIV-infected men and women on long-term suppressive therapy, a team led by Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists provides evidence that one of these stable reservoirs of HIV genomes can be found in monocytes.
31 MAR –
A study coordinated by researchers at Johs Hospkins Medicine has shown, in blood samples from patients on long-term suppressive HIV therapy, that one of the stable reservoirs of virus genomes is hidden in circulating white blood cells called monocytes. The research findings were published by Nature Microbiology.
Monocytes are precursor immune cells of macrophages, which are capable of destroying viruses, bacteria and other cells foreign to the host organism. The results of the study showed that blood from people on standard antiretroviral therapy contains monocytes that are capable of maintaining the HIV genome and infecting nearby cells.
This evidence may provide insights into new targets for improving therapies and curing HIV. Current antiretrovirals, in fact, can reduce the virus load to an undetectable level, but cannot eradicate it completely.
The team of researchers extracted cells from blood samples to grow them in the laboratory. Generally, monocytes transform very quickly into macrophages within three days. All ten patients from whom blood samples were collected had the HIV genome detectable in monocytes, but at levels ten times lower than those found in CD4+ T cells, a known reservoir of the virus.
From another group of 30 people with HIV, then, also on antiretroviral therapy, the researchers discovered a viral genome in CD4+ T cells and monocytes; the team was also able to detect a virus produced by the infected monocytes in half of the participants.
The virus extracted from these cells was able to infect CD4+ T cells. Finally, three of the participants had blood tests several times over four years, and each time the scientists found HIV genes and infectious viruses produced by monocyte-derived macrophages.
Source: Nature Microbiology 2023
March 31, 2023
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