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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 26, 2009 | Baby's Crying Patterns Mimic Parents' Accent

A baby's cry isn't just a method for getting mom's attention for food or comfort. It is also an important beginning to the development of language.  It is known that fetus can hear outside sounds from the womb during the last three months of pregnancy, but now German researchers have found that babies begin to pick up language patterns from their parents as well.  Kathleen Wermke PhD, lead ...

November 25, 2009 | Green Tea Extract Helps Prevent Oral Cancer

A leading cancer center reports that green tea extract may be helpful in preventing oral cancer in patients who have a pre-malignant condition called oral leukoplakia. The five-year survival rate among oral cancer patients is less than 50 percent.  Green tea extract has been the ...

November 24, 2009 | Aggressive Tooth Brushing The 1st Cause Of Tooth Pain

One in three dentists say that aggressive toothbrushing is the most common cause of sensitive teeth, according to a nationwide member survey conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Acidic food and ...

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