Researchers belonging to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health recently conducted a study which shows a connection between metabolism and cholesterol in immune cells and HIV progression.
The discovery could help scientists develop new treatments for HIV. It shows a potential method for new ways to control progression of HIV and infection by controlling and monitoring cellular cholesterol metabolism.
Specific immune cells with enhanced cholesterol metabolism may be key for helping some people with HIV infections since these levels of metabolism may actually control the progression of HIV.
Otherwise called APCs, immune cells are able to deliver HIV directly to T cells, which are the virus’s primary target and major replication site. This is how the levels of HIV rise and defeat the immune systems, ultimately causing AIDS.
Some people with HIV infections can live for many years before the virus progresses into becoming AIDS. This is due to the fact that their immune cells do not infect T cells most likely due to altered cholesterol metabolism. This seems to be an inherited attribute.
“We’ve known for two decades that some people don’t have the dramatic loss in their T cells and progression to AIDS that you’d expect without drug therapy,” Giovanna Rappocciolo, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, said. “Instead, the disease progresses more slowly, and we believe altered cholesterol metabolism in certain immune cells may be a reason.”
The study, which received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was presented at the International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment & Prevention.
“Compared to APCs from progressors, cells from nonprogressors expressed higher levels of several cholesterol-related genes associated with defective trans infection,” Rappocciolo said. “These results improve understanding of how nonprogressors control HIV without drug therapy and potentially may contribute to new approaches to manage HIV infection.”