Process of Spontaneously Controlling HIV Discovered
Certain patients can kill HIV antigens before an infection is developed.
In a recent study, researchers found that the CD4+ T immune cells in certain patients are capable of recognizing small quantities of HIV and preventing the infection.
These patients, called HIV controllers, are able to spontaneously control viral replication without treatment and do not develop HIV.
Patients in the study were recruited from the ANRS CO21 CODEX cohort and discovered how their CD4+ T cells work on a molecular level, according to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
HIV controller patients make up less than .5% of all HIV-positive patients and are able to maintain functional auxiliary CD4+ T lymphocytes, which are destroyed or inactive in patients who develop the disease.
Researchers discovered that the CD4+ T cells of these patients can produce countless cytokines when exposed to low doses of HIV antigens. The sensitive responses were a result of T cell receptors (TCRs) on the surface of the CD4+ T cells, according to the study.
These particular TCRs were infrequently found on the CD4+ T cells of patients undergoing treatment.
Researchers also discovered that the TCRs target the HIV capsid’s most highly conserved peptide, Gag293. These TCRs have a strong affinity for Gag293 when it is at the surface of the CD4+ T cells and this affinity ensures the detection of infected cells in HIV controllers, the researchers wrote.
The transfer of the TCRs to healthy cells creates the properties of the HIV controllers’ CD4+ T cells.
Researchers concluded that since the expression of high-affinity TCRs is linked to control of HIV, strategies to transfer or boost TCRs could be used to develop new treatments for patients who have developed HIV.