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Study: Clue on AIDS-less HIV cases
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Community - Planet OutStudy: Clue on AIDS-less HIV casesTue Oct 8, 7:32 PM ET
Randy Dotinga, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network
Federal researchers have a new theory about why a small number of HIV-positive people don't develop AIDS, but it's not clear if their findings will help anyone who's already infected.
In a study published this week, researchers with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (news - web sites) suggest that so-called "nonprogressors" may harbor a stronger and more effective immune system than others infected with HIV.
Some scientists had suspected that the bodies of the nonprogressors create more white blood cells known as CD8+ cells, which act as the soldiers of the immune system and kill infected cells.
But in tests on 15 nonprogressors and 25 other HIV patients, researchers found that the two groups had similar numbers of white blood cells. However, the cells in the nonprogressors did a better job of reproducing and manufacturing a molecule called perforin, which helps them destroy HIV-infected cells.
"Understanding the mechanisms by which the immune systems of long-term nonprogressors control HIV is important to our development of effective vaccines," said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement.
Researchers said the findings, which appear in the current online issue of the journal Nature Immunology, may help in the search for an HIV vaccine that could be used both to prevent infection and to treat those already infected with the AIDS virus.
The findings come on the heels of a study released in September that suggested the immune cells of nonprogressors give off special HIV-fighting proteins.
"The interesting thing is that the two papers state they have 'found' the reason we see these people (nonprogressors), but they have two different explanations," said Frank Myers, an epidemiologist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego. "It is possible that both explanations are true, that these people have two protective systems."
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