HIV progression connected to cholesterol metabolism
This discovery could help scientists in developing new treatments for HIV. It shows a potential method for new ways to control HIV progression and infection by monitoring and controlling cellular cholesterol metabolism.
Certain immune cells with enhanced cholesterol metabolism may be key to helping some people with HIV infections, as these metabolism levels may naturally control the progression of HIV.
Immune cells, also called APCs, are able to deliver HIV directly to T cells, the virus’s primary target and major replication site. This is how HIV levels rise and defeat the immune system, causing AIDs.
Some people with HIV infections can live for years before the virus becomes AIDS. This is because their immune cells do not infect T cells, most likely because of 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."