Editor’s Note: Guest contributor, Carolyn Knight, works as a freelance writer specializing in healthcare, medical news, and schools offering degrees in registered nursing schools. She lives in Austin, Texas where she has worked as a nurse and continues to write about her nursing experiences and knowledge of health care.
If scientists at NYU’s Langone Medical Center got it right, they’ve found a protein that starves HIV cells out of existence. The research could represent a huge advancement in finding a way to treat the progression of HIV into AIDS.
Researchers discovered the protein, which they’ve named SAMHD1, inside of cells that resisted the onslaught of HIV. The researchers hoped to discover the reason behind SAMHD1’s ability to resist the virus and they found it.
Nathanial Landau, one of the lead researchers on the study said, “SAMHD1 essentially starves the virus. The virus enters the cell and then nothing happens. It has nothing to build and replicate with, so no DNA is made.”
SAMHD1 – Warrior Protein
The starvation essentially forces the HIV to evolve and begin replicating its newer form in different kinds of cells that lack the SAMHD1 proteins. The virus’ ability to evolve in this way represents one reason a cure or treatment has remained elusive. When starvation occurs in the HIV virus, it then mutates and begins to infect T-cells; cells associated with the immune system that lack SAMHD1, yet allow the virus to replicate itself.
The SAMHD1 represents the fourth – and many researchers assume the final — natural defense against the HIV virus. Research shows the protein residing within dendritic cells, which play a crucial role to the immune system’s response to attacks by viruses like HIV. These dendritic cells capture antigens and migrate to the spleen and lymph nodes and present the processed material to the T-cells located there.
Discovery Encourages Troops to Continue the Fight
Landau and his team have not determined exactly how or if the scientific community can use this discovery to treat HIV infections, but the breakthrough certainly serves to encourage them to forge ahead in the quest for a cure.
“Over the past few years, a number of these natural resistance mechanisms have been identified, specifically in HIV, but some have potential applications to other viruses, as well,” Landau explains. “This is a very exciting time in HIV research. Many of the virus’ secrets are being revealed through molecular biology, and we’re learning a tremendous amount about how our immune system works through the study of HIV.”
Image credit: frontroomcinema dot com (Mad Max)