Interleukin-2 (IL-2), an immune-boosting drug used experimentally in HIV therapy, greatly increases the lifespan of certain subsets of immune system T cells in some HIV-positive people who respond to this therapy, discovered researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH. A report describing the study, led by the Clinical Centers Joseph A. Kovacs, M.D., appears online in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
A hallmark of HIV infection is the progressive loss of CD4+ T cells (a key type of white blood cell) and the subsequent decline in the infected persons ability to fend off disease. NIH clinical investigators pioneered the experimental use of IL-2 in HIV therapy to help boost the immune systems of people with HIV infection. Produced naturally by T cells, IL-2 is a powerful immune system regulator. While its use in HIV therapy is experimental and can be associated with various side effects, IL-2 is licensed to treat certain cancers.
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