July 23, 2010
Connecting at the 18th International AIDS Conference this week in Vienna are about 200 researchers who want to resurrect the search for a definitive AIDS cure. Convened by 2008 Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, attendees are mapping out a research agenda and establishing methods to coordinate their efforts.
"It's the single biggest hurdle we have to get over," said Kevin Frost, CEO of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Frost said "cure" is a word rarely used by AIDS researchers, who are both mindful of the virus? extraordinary ability to survive and wary of stoking unrealistic expectations.
One likely research objective is learning how to attack the tiny, latent reservoirs of infection that persist even when antiretroviral therapy has reduced HIV to undetectable levels.
Scientists are investigating one reservoir, an immune system component known as resting memory T cells. A person with HIV has about 1 million infected resting memory T cells, dormant and invisible to the immune system. One possible line of attack is to animate these cells so that they start shedding HIV. Once the resting memory T cells betray their existence and location, so the reasoning goes, they can be found and destroyed.
Other possible reservoirs are located in the brain, the genital area, the gastrointestinal tract, blood stem cells, and macrophage cells.
Agence France Presse
07.21.2010; Richard Ingham, Christine Courcol
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