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New Hope For HIV Treatment: Cells Exhausted From Fighting HIV Infection Can Be Revitalized

Posted Nov 15 2008 4:23pm

Researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of California, San Francisco, have revealed new hope for HIV treatment with the discovery of a way to ‘rescue’ immune cells that are exhausted from fighting off HIV infection.

The team lead by Drs. Mario Ostrowski, of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, and Douglas Nixon, of the Division of Experimental Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has discovered that a molecule called Tim-3 is present at high levels on poorly functional immune system cells which are ‘exhausted’ from fighting HIV infection. The researchers found that blocking the activity of Tim-3 on these cells improved their function and allowed them to rejoin the battle against HIV.

“In the typical course of HIV infection, an initial burst of very high levels of the HIV virus is brought partially under control by the infected person’s immune system, specifically by an immune system cell called a CD8+ killer T cell. In the majority of cases without antiretroviral drug treatment, the immune system is eventually overwhelmed and progression to AIDS occurs,” said co-principal author Brad Jones, a PhD candidate in Immunology at the University of Toronto.

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