Protein may help immune system fend off virus
UCLA scientists have shown that a protein called telomerase prevents the premature aging of the immune cells that fight HIV, enabling the cells to divide indefinitely and prolong their defense against infection. Published Nov. 15 in the Journal of Immunology, the research suggests a future therapy for boosting the weakened immune systems of HIV-positive people.
Every cell contains a tiny cellular clock called a telomere, which shortens each time the cell splits in two. Located at the end of the cells chromosome, the telomere limits the number of times a cell can divide. "Immune cells that fight HIV are under constant strain to divide in order to continue performing their protective functions. This massive amount of division shortens these cells telomeres prematurely," explained Dr. Rita Effros, Plott Chair in Gerontology and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "So the telomeres of a 40-year-old person infected with HIV resemble those of a healthy 90-year-old person."
Elaine Schmidt | EurekAlert!
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