The researchers were looking at T helper cells, a class of white blood cells which recognise infection and co-ordinate the body’s immune defences. They are attacked by HIV, and their numbers gradually decline in HIV positive patients. It has long been a major puzzle why this process of depletion is so slow, often taking 10 years or more.
One popular theory has been the “runaway” hypothesis, which says that T cells infected by HIV produce more HIV virus particles, which activate more T cells, that in turn become infected, leading to an uncontrolled cycle of T cell activation, infection, HIV production and cell destruction.
However, today’s new study in PLoS Medicine shows that this theory cannot explain the very slow pace of depletion that occurs in HIV infection. The research team used a mathematical model of the processes by which T cells are produced and eliminated to show that if the runaway theory was correct, then T helper cell numbers would fall to very low levels over a number of months, not years.
One of the paper’s authors is Jaroslav Stark, Professor of Mathematics at Imperial College London, and Director of the Centre of Integrative Systems Biology at Imperial. He said: “Scientists have never had a full understanding of the processes by which T helper cells are depleted in HIV, and therefore they’ve been unable to fully explain why HIV destroys the body’s supply of these cells at such a slow rate. Our new interdisciplinary research has thrown serious doubt on one popular theory of how HIV affects these cells, and means that further studies are required to understand the mechanism behind HIV’s distinctive slow process of cellular destruction.”
The research team think that one possible explanation could be that the virus slowly adapts itself over the course of the infection, but they stress that further analysis is needed to verify this alternative theory.
Professor Stark adds: “If the specific process by which HIV depletes this kind of white blood cells can be identified, it could pave the way for potential new approaches to treatment.”
Danielle Reeves | alfa
Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland
Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy