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Study identifies population of stem-like cells where HIV persists in spite of treatment

Posted on January 13, 2014

Although antiviral therapy against HIV suppresses viral replication and allows infected individuals to live relatively healthy lives for many years, the virus persists in the body, and replication resumes if treatment is interrupted. Now investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard may have found where the virus hides – in a small group of recently identified T cells with stem-cell-like properties.

“Most human cells are short lived, so it has been unclear how HIV manages to stick around for decades in spite of very effective antiviral treatment,” says Mathias Lichterfeld, MD, of the MGH Infectious Disease Division, corresponding author of the report receiving advance online publication in Nature Medicine. “This question led to the hypothesis that HIV might infect stem cells - the most long-lasting cells in the body – but traditional organ-specific stem cells, even those that give rise to all immune and blood cells, are resistant to HIV infection. We have discovered that a new group of T cells, called T memory stem cells, are susceptible to HIV and likely represent the longest lasting cellular niche for the virus.”

HIV has such a devastating impact on the human immune system because it infects the CD4-positive T cells that normally direct and support the infection-fighting activities of other immune cells.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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