A team of scientists led by virologists Prof. Oliver T. Fackler and Prof. Oliver T. Keppler from Heidelberg University Hospital have decoded a mechanism used by the human immune system to protect itself from HIV viruses.
In the experiment, if SAMHD1 expression was silenced, resting T helper cells became susceptible to HIV infection. The same was true for immune cells of a patient who is unable to produce SAMHD1 due to a hereditary condition. “This shows that HIV can only replicate in lymphocytes if the effect of the protective protein SAMHD1 is eliminated,” Keppler said. In addition, the researchers discovered that this early protective measure must be followed by other barriers to HIV replication. Even without SAMHD1, no new viruses were released from resting T helper cells. Now that they have described the protective function of SAMHD1 and are able block it, the scientists can for the first time also investigate the downstream mechanisms. “We hope that we will be able to use these findings to develop new strategies in the fight against HIV,” the virologist said.
Dr. Annette Tuffs | idw
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