A group of researchers from the Pasteur Institute in France has taken a new step in the fight against the AIDS virus (HIV) by discovering a way to eliminate infected cells, according to a study published today by Cell Metabolism.
This finding, also announced by the Pasteur Institute, could revolutionize the treatment of HIV, because, so far, patients must take antiretroviral drugs that fail to kill the reservoirs (latent viruses) of HIV that lodge in the immune cells. “Our job is to identify the infected cells so we can better focus on them with the goal of eliminating them from the organism,” said the study coordinator, the spaniard Asier Sáez-Cirión, of the Pasteur Institute, in a statement broadcast on RTL radio.
The team of researchers has been able to identify the characteristics of CD4 T lymphocytes, the immune cells that HIV activates and uses to produce copies of itself. The treatments that exist — antiretroviral — prevent HIV from doing this and multiplying, but they do not cure, that is, they do not end the virus, but leave it in a dormant state.
Now researchers have discovered that the virus primarily infects cells with a strong metabolic activity — such as CD4 — in which the consumption of glucose plays a predominant role. Understanding that mechanism will open a door to eliminate infected cells, experts say.
What the researchers have achieved is blocking the infection thanks to inhibitors of metabolic activity already explored against cancer in ex vivo experiments, that is experiments that are carried out in or on biological tissues of an organism in an artificial environment.
According to the researchers, the finding is a promising first step, although they clarified that it is still necessary for this technique to be applied in patients.