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Discovery Could Lead To Novel Approaches In HIV Treatment

CANVAC, the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, has announced the development of a new method to assess how well the thymus (an organ located at the base of the neck) works and the discovery of a functional abnormality of this organ in HIV-infected individuals. The team of investigators led by Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, professor at Université de Montréal, scientist at the CHUM Research Centre, and Scientific Director and Program Leader of CANVAC, publishes today its discoveries in Immunity, a prestigious scientific journal. This work was performed in collaboration with investigators from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre as well as from France and Israel.

Using only blood samples, these researchers first developed a method to assess how well the thymus functions. The thymus is involved in the development of T-lymphocytes, an essential component of the immune system. T-lymphocytes also happen to be HIV's preferred targets for infection. The researchers then used this method to study blood samples from patients that had been recently infected with HIV and found that, already in the first months following the onset of infection, thymic function is decreased. Such a decrease results in a lowered T-lymphocyte production by the thymus. These findings pave the way to the development of novel immunotherapies of HIV-infected individuals. Such immunotherapies could be also applicable to patients requiring bone marrow transplantation to cure their cancer.

Source:CANVAC press release

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