Breakthrough in AIDS as virus’s hiding places found

June 22nd, 2009 - 10:14 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, June 22 (IANS) In a major breakthrough for AIDS cure, Canadian scientists have finally found where the HIV virus hides in the human body to become impervious to medical treatment.
This breakthrough could pave the way for a total cure of the deadly disease, claim the scientists who carried out the study with researchers from the US.

The current anti-viral treatment for HIV patients can only subdue, not eliminate, the virus as it hides somewhere to lie low and then attack the system again.

Till now, scientists conjectured that the AIDS virus might be hiding in the kidneys or the brain.

But now the Canadian researchers claim that they have discovered the safe havens where the virus hides in the human body.

Led by Professor Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, researchers said they have found that the virus hides in “long-lived” memory cells in the human body.

These memory cells, which have a long life just like the stem cells, lie sleepy in the body most of the time until they encounter a new virus or disease-causing agents.

Like stem cells, these memory cells are also capable of replicating themselves. So when the AIDS enters them or attacks them, these memory cells multiply to defend the body.

But the problem is that the once AIDS virus enters these memory cells, it also multiplies with them.

Thus, ruring the current intense medication - which involves five to six drugs that can prolong life up to 13 years - for a patient, the AIDS virus retreats into these safe havens to stage an attack later.

The researchers said they are finding ways to destroy the virus in its safe havens in the memory cells without harming the immune system.

Their research is the “first clue” to eliminating the AIDS virus, said research leader Sekaly Sunday.

There are over 33 million HIV patients worldwide, with 2.7 million more getting infected each year.

The research study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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