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News: November 23, 2009

Genetic Variant Slows AIDS Progression

November 23, 2009

Scientists report that a genetic variation appears to play a major role in slowing disease progression in HIV-infected patients.
In fact, those with the variation appear to take years longer to develop AIDS and die of complications of the disease.
"We're honing in on factors that vary across individuals that make a person more or less susceptible to HIV, in terms of how rapidly someone develops the disease," said study co-author Mary Carrington, a senior principal investigator at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
However, this new knowledge won't translate into immediate benefits for patients with HIV.
AIDS remains a major killer in many parts of the world, but HIV - the virus that causes it - doesn't affect infected people the same way. "People progress to AIDS at hugely different rates," Carrington explained. "Some people progress within a year, while some have been infected for 20 years and still control the virus and don't have the disease."
It appears that three factors affect how the disease strikes a person, she said. One is the environment: the world in which a person lives. Another is the patient's genetic makeup. And the third is the genetic makeup of the virus itself.
In the study, published in the Nov. 22 online edition of Nature Genetics, Carrington and colleagues looked at genetic and medical records for hundreds of HIV-infected men. They were trying to see if genetic variations affected how the men fared.
The researchers found that a variation linked to higher levels of a protein known as HLA-C boosted the men's ability to avoid progressing to AIDS. It appeared to delay both the progression to AIDS and to death by years, Carrington said.
The genetic variation makes it easier for the immune system to kill cells that have been infected with the virus, she said. It does this by allowing immune cells to gain greater access to the infected cells, she explained.
Carrington said this genetic variation isn't related to another gene-related trait that makes some people virtually immune to HIV.
The study "hints at ways we might ultimately develop a vaccine or immune-based therapies that could modify or maybe even prevent the development of HIV disease," said Rowena Johnston, vice president of research with the Foundation for AIDS Research in New York City.
"The finding that a single piece of DNA can be strongly associated with something as complex as the control of HIV soon after infection is especially intriguing, not least because we know that early control of infection sets the stage for the entire course of the disease," Johnston noted.
What's next? The ultimate goal, Carrington said, is "to have a complete list of every genetic variance that is affecting how rapidly the disease develops."
That, in turn, could help physicians figure out how to better treat patients.


Archive issues: (50)

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November 11, 2009 | Treatment for Sleep Apnea Can Improve Golf Game

Men with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who received nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP or NPAP) treatments not only improved their health, but also lowered their golf handicap by as much as three strokes, according to research presented at CHEST 2009, the 75th annual assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).  Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person as episodes of stopped breathing during sleep. Symptoms include ...

November 10, 2009 | More Insurance Companies Are Paying For Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine which was once thought to be controversial and experimental is now gaining newfound respect within the medical community. In fact so much respect that more insurance companies are beginning to pay for alternative medicine.  More and more doctors trained in Western medicine are ...

November 9, 2009 | Two Antibiotics Linked to Birth Defects

Most antibiotics used during pregnancy are safe, but researchers have found a link between two commonly prescribed drugs and birth defects.  The study, part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study and published in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, is the first analysis of antibiotic use in ...

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