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Researchers identify possible key to slow progression toward AIDS
Date:9/19/2012

One of the big mysteries of AIDS is why some HIV-positive people take more than a decade to progress to full-blown AIDS, if they progress at all.

Although the average time between HIV infection and AIDS in the absence of antiretroviral treatment is about 10 years, some individuals succumb within two years, while so-called slow progressors can stay healthy for 20 years or longer.

Researchers already know that many slow progressors carry a gene called HLA-B*57 (B57), an immune gene variant that is found in less than 5 percent of the general population but in 40 to 85 percent of slow progressors. Yet even among those with the B57 gene, the speed of disease progression can vary considerably.

Now, a group of investigators from the Multi-Center AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), housed within the UCLA AIDS Institute, may have uncovered the key to this variation. It is a killer T-cell immune response that occurs early on in HIV infection and targets a section or epitope of the HIV protein called IW9.

The novel findings are featured on the cover of the October issue of the Journal of Virology.

"Since the hope for a vaccine is that it would elicit immune control, the thought has been that understanding how B57 protection works would yield helpful lessons and principles for vaccine design," said Catherine Brennan, an assistant research scientist in the department of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study's lead author. "There have been a lot of efforts to understand how the immune response to HIV in B57 carriers is superior to the response in non-B57 carriers, but it has been hard to nail anything down conclusively."

HLA-B genes are known to work by activating killer T cells that recognize unique sections of proteins, or epitopes, but it has been a mystery which section or sections of HIV protein HLA-B57 and the killer T cells work through.

Previous research had large
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Contact: Enrique Rivero
erivero@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2273
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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