Scientists Track Progression Of HIV To AIDS

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Scientists from the University of Florida College of Medicinehave tracked how HIV progresses to AIDS -- a finding that could lead tothe development of new drugs that target the virus before it canprogress -- according to a study published online recently in PLoS One, ANI/ reports.

Researchersled by Marco Salemi -- an assistant professor of pathology, immunologyand laboratory medicine at UFCM -- tracked four children who wereHIV-positive at birth. All of the children had taken minimal medicationand developed AIDS by age one. The researchers studied blood samplestaken from the children at birth, throughout their lives and aftertheir deaths. Tissue samples also were taken at the time of death,ANI/ reports.

Using a high-resolution computertechnique, the researchers examined the blood and tissue samples tomonitor mutations in a protein that enables the virus to attach tohuman cells. The researchers then categorized the virus into two groups-- R5 and X4. R5 typically is present during the early stages ofinfection with HIV, and X4 is present just before HIV progresses toAIDS, according to ANI/ The researchers then tracked thevirus in each child to determine when and why X4 appeared.


Thestudy found that most HIV viral changes occur in the thymus -- an organresponsible for immune cell development that is located behind thebreastbone. In addition, the study found that HIV progressed similarlyin each child, regardless of his or her medical history. Theresearchers next plan to track HIV progression in adults before andafter beginning treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The researchershope that their findings lead to new drugs that hinder the virus'ability to evolve in the thymus, according to ANI/


If scientists could "understand the selective pressures" that lead X4to develop, as well as the "steps involved in the conversion ofviruses, then we might be able to set up new targets for drugdevelopment," Maureen Goodenow, a study senior author and HIV/AIDSresearcher at UFCM, said. Goodenow added the study increases thepossibility that the "evolutionary track" of HIV is "not totallyrandom."

Oliver Pybus, a zoology research fellow at University of Oxford,said the study is "excellent." He added, "For the first time, it showshow the movement of immune cells with the body is linked to theevolutionary behavior of the virus, which in turn determines theclinical outcome of infection" (ANI/, 10/17).

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