Friday, November 05, 2010

Progress in understanding resistance to the HIV virus

Some people have been found who while infected with the HIV virus do not have the disease progress by effectively attacking the immune system and eventually producing AIDS. The Boston Globe reports a significant advance in identifying genetic traits of these controllers (people who control the HIV virus) that differentiate them from progressors (those in whom the infection progresses more rapidly toward clinical disease).

The researchers "obtained data on 1,384,048 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 974 controllers (cases) and 2648 progressors (controls) from multiple populations". These people were identified by an international team of researchers. Since the controllers are rare the effort to find 994 must have been significant. Note too that DNA sequencing had to be done for more than 3700 people -- another huge effort! From the huge number of SNPs, the researchers narrowed down to a list of some 300 that were found in controllers and not progressors.

This would seem to be an extremely important research event rather than something that will lead quickly to medical interventions. Further research will have to be done to assure that the SNP's are really protective and hopefully to understand why. Then labs would presumably seek to develop techniques to induce the same resistance enhancing activity artificially. If successful, it would have to be established that those interventions were safe, and finally that they were effective in large scale controlled trials. In the process of the research, of course, science will learn a lot about human genetics, the immune system, viral disease, and the HIV virus in particular.

Here is a link to the article in Science.

No comments: