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HIV: Overwhelming the enemy from the start

Great strides have been made in terms of public health campaigns to reduce the spread of HIV, and the development of antiretrovirals to stop people living with the condition from developing AIDS. However, medical interventions to cure or vaccinate against the condition have so far proved elusive.

Researchers from the Montreal Clinical Research Institute may have made a crucial first step in this direction. Their recent research, outlined recently in the journal Cell Reports, focuses on boosting the levels of ‘plasmacytoid dendritic cells’ (PDCs) in the earliest stages of HIV infection.

PDCs are a specialised type of immune cell which both detects pathogens and orchestrates antiviral response, primarily by “producing large amounts of interferon, a protein that triggers a state of infection resistance in other cells,” explains researcher Éric Cohen. HIV is able to dramatically lower the number of PDCs throughout the body as soon as it arrives through an as-yet unknown mechanism, allowing it to establish itself much more easily.

Using a humanised mouse model, the researchers stimulated the production of PDCs prior to and during infection of the mice with HIV. As a result of this high level of PDCs fewer mice were initially infected with HIV, it took longer for the virus to be detectable and viremia was significantly reduced.

These results indicate that increasing PDC abundance may be an avenue toward the development of a vaccine and even, in time, a cure for HIV.

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Source: Medical Xpress