Sumary of Impaired T cell function precedes loss of natural HIV control:
- The vast majority of people living with HIV require daily medication to suppress the virus and therefore prevent the development of AIDS. But for a small subset of people, this battle between the immune system and the virus looks quite different.
- Known as controllers, they have immune systems that can suppress the virus without any need for medication.
- While most controllers can suppress the virus indefinitely, some eventually lose control over the virus and require medication to achieve viral suppression.
- In a paper recently published in Immunity, researchers at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard reported that, in these cases, control is lost after a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic T cell, loses the ability to proliferate and kill HIV-infected cells.
- In order to find these differences, the researchers, led by Ragon Research Fellow David Collins, PhD, compared samples collected over several years from cohorts of HIV controllers at Ragon and the University of California at San Francisco.
- In a successful immune response, cytotoxic T cells recognize small pieces of HIV, called antigens, which are found on the surface of infected cells.
- The T cells then kill the infected cells, destroying the virus inside.
- If mutations in HIV were changing the antigens, the T cells may no longer be able to recognize them.