This Week In HIV Research


This Week in HIV Research: HIV-Related Inflammation May Be Irreversible; and Genetically Engineered T-Cells Resist HIV

December 16, 2016

This week, a study finds that even if an HIV cure is achieved, the effects of HIV-related inflammation may be irreversible. In another study, researchers engineered CD4 cells that are resistant to HIV in a mouse model. And more data is needed to identify the causes behind racial disparities and HIV risk among black and white gay men, a study suggests. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!

Effects of HIV-Related Chronic Inflammation May Be Irreversible

It is unclear whether the effects of chronic inflammation can be reversed, even if a functional cure of HIV can be found or eradication of the virus can be achieved, notes an introduction to the "Persistent Inflammation in Treated HIV Disease" supplement in Journal of Infectious Diseases.

With the advent of effective antiretroviral therapy, people living with HIV increasingly suffer from non-AIDS-defining diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer. Most of these illnesses are driven by underlying inflammatory processes that accompany chronic infections, such as HIV. These processes persist even when the virus itself is well controlled by antiretroviral medications.

Inflammation also damages the immune system before HIV treatment is started, which "stress[es] the importance of broad HIV testing linked to early intervention," the author wrote. Articles in the supplement address strategies for reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems, how nutritional status in those living with HIV affects inflammation, and the mechanisms by which chronic inflammation continues, among other issues.

Related: This Week in HIV Research: Improving Initiation of Treatment


Genetically Engineered T-Cells Confer HIV Resistance in Mice

In a preclinical trial, researchers have genetically engineered CD4 cells to resist infection by HIV, PLOS Pathogens reports]].

The experiments at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Center for AIDS Research involved mice that had been genetically engineered to have a human immune system. A specific peptide was linked to a CCR5 or CXCR4 chemokine receptor.

In the HIV-infected animals, this genetic modification provided CD4 T cells with resistance to the virus. The technique expands upon the way in which fusion inhibitors -- a class of antiretroviral drugs -- work. It proved successful against a variety of HIV strains and was active when linked to either receptor, although it was more successful when attached to the CXCR4 receptor.

A phase-1 clinical trial in people living with HIV is expected to start this month, according to a press release about the study. Trial participants with well-controlled HIV will be infused with genetically engineered T cells and their antiretroviral treatment will be interrupted to see how long it takes for their viral loads to return to detectable levels at different amounts of engineered T cells.

Better Data on Racial Disparities in HIV Risk Among MSM Needed

Observed differences in the rate of new HIV acquisitions between white and African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) are due to a variety of factors, including behavioral characteristics, a data analysis conducted at Drexel University and reported in Epidemiology concluded.

The data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions was corrected for behavioral differences, as well as underreporting of same-sex behavior and other cofounding factors. The HIV prevalence gap between white and African American MSM based on the initial data was 11.5. That gap narrowed to 6.2 after the correction.

A press release about the study notes that HIV prevalence rates are higher among African-American heterosexual men than among their white counterparts. Racism in the LGBT community may also play a part, reducing the pool of potential sex partners for African-American MSM, hypothesized Neal D. Goldstein, Ph.D., one of the study's authors. He called for better data to more accurately inform health department decisions on HIV prevention funding.

Warren Tong is the senior science editor for and Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York. Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.

Copyright © 2016 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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