Washington: A new study has that cellular proliferation keeps the HIV-infected cells alive in infected individuals, even after undergoing suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Cell proliferation is a process which results in an increase in the number of cells, wherein the balance between cell divisions and cell loss occurs through cell death or differentiation.
The scientists found out that reducing cellular proliferation could help deplete the number of infected cells and potentially lead to a functional cure for HIV.
The research team in the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, combined mathematical models and immunological insight to understand the genetic signature of HIV-infected cells.
"Our approach was inspired by ecology," said a lead researcher Dan Reeves.
"We adapted tools to characterize the reservoir of HIV-infected cells more realistically, inferring the mechanism of generation from the proportions of unique and identical genetic signatures," Reeves added.
When HIV infects a healthy cell, it inserts its own DNA into the human chromosome, leaving behind a unique genetic signature. If the virus replicating was the cause of latent HIV reservoirs, researchers suggested that this genetic signature would contain unique integration sites and different mutations in the DNA of infected cells.
ART has been effective in helping HIV-positive individuals live healthy lives since the late 1990s. HIV researchers have since been working to understand why reservoirs of HIV-infected immune cells remain at low levels during ART treatment, and how to identify and purge infected cells.
"We see parallels in achieving functional cures in both HIV and cancer; for example, the difficulties of remission and relapse, and how combination therapies could be successful in bringing either disease to undetectable levels in the body," said another researcher, Josh Schiffer.
Schiffer and colleagues are conducting a clinical trial to test whether the lymphocyte anti-proliferative drug mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) could be effective at stopping the proliferation of HIV-infected immune cells in people undergoing ART. This could significantly cure HIV.
The study was published in Nature Communications journal....