Researchers from the National Cancer Institute report in Nature Genetics that the progression to AIDS is delayed in HIV-infected individuals with a specific combination of two gene variants.
One of the genes encodes a receptor on natural killer cells, the cells involved in the body’s first line of defense against infection. The other gene encodes a human leukocyte protein located on the surface of white blood cells and other tissues in the body. The finding suggests, for the first time, that natural killer cells protect against progression to AIDS.
Dr. Carrington and colleagues examined the genes encoding the natural killer cell receptor and the human leukocyte antigen in over 900 HIV-infected patients. They found that neither gene is associated with delayed progression to AIDS when considered on its own. But the co-incidence of particular variants of each gene is associated with an extended period between HIV infection and the development of AIDS.
This suggests that there is a synergistic, protective effect between the two genes. Further investigation of how the interaction slows the progression to AIDS should provide important lessons about the body’s defense against HIV infection and how it might be enhanced.
Author contact details:
Dr. Mary Carrington
National Cancer Institute,
Tel: +1 301 8461390
Also available online.
(C) Nature Genetics press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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