Major step forward in effective treatment for HIV/AIDS

New research findings by scientists in Germany* – soon to be published in The Royal Society`s Proceedings B journal – will be of major importance for HIV and AIDS treatment in the future. The findings provide estimates on the likely success of drugs which are currently in development and clarifies key factors of HIV dynamics that must be eliminated to pave the way for an efficient treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Using computer simulations to map the `predator-prey` dynamics between viruses and the immune system, the research offers a better understanding of the conditions that inhibit the progression of the virus into AIDS and the points at which HIV may be most effectively defeated.

Commenting on the research, Christel Kamp, from the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Kiel, says: “Our research findings are a step ahead in understanding conditions that promote a non-progression to AIDS, suggesting vaccination and receptor blocking/fusion inhibition as efficient ways of overcoming an HIV infection. Receptor blocking is a process by which the HIV strains are blocked from attaching to markers on the T-helper cells which are necessary to start the process of cell membrane fusion. The first clinical trials are also showing these strategies to be very promising.”

Deriving explanations for the origin of the unusual incubation period in the development of AIDS is closely connected to the identification of vaccination and receptor blocking as effective strategies to overcome HIV infection. Vaccination leads to an adaptation of the immune repertoire to HIV, which allows a faster response to the virus. In the research model used by the German scientists, this leads to a stabilisation of the system and an enhanced probability that the virus dies out. T-helper cells are crucial in the immune system response. They detect antigens on the surface of cells and stimulate other immune cells that produce antibodies. HIV strains enter the T-helper cells, then use the replication machinery of these cells with the result that the new virus particles spill out of the cell which is finally destroyed. Therefore, patients that do not express these receptors have shown a resistance to HIV.

* From HIV Infection to AIDS: A Dynamically Induced Percolation Transition? by Christel Kamp from the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Kiel and Stefan Bornholdt from the Statistical Biophysics Group of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioinformatics at the University of Leipzig

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