Study finds how HIV tricks immune system

April 1st, 2008 - 3:38 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 1 (IANS) HIV tricks our natural defences by showing itself as normal trash in a cell, rather than an enemy marked for destruction, ensuring its survival in dodgy ways, says a new study. When a common cold virus infects people, the immune system produces cells that can quickly get rid of the virus. But when HIV manages to hide itself in a human cell, it easily afflicts victims for a lifetime.

HIV produces a protein called Nef that binds to immune cells and alters it in a way that the virus registers as cellular trash rather than being visible on the surface, hence unseen by human defences, said researcher Kathleen Collins of the University of Michigan.

Accordingly, Nef protein recruits other proteins fabricated naturally within the cells to aid this subversion. US scientists have identified these proteins and developed inhibitors to reverse the activity of Nef, enabling our immune system to get rid of the virus.

These findings were presented Tuesday at the Society for General Microbiology in Edinburgh.

“We have discovered that Nef takes on notably different shapes and structural forms in different contexts, which allows it to reveal or obscure different traffic signals within the infected cell as needed.

“Once we have a better understanding of the surfaces and shapes involved in these interactions, we will be in a better position to develop medicines which may someday help to combat AIDS,” Collins said.

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