The AIDS virus has the ability to prevent the activity of some cells of the immune system - the dendritic- whose function is precisely to capture microbes and divide them so that white blood cells are responsible for eliminating them. In the case of HIV, these cells can not divide the virus, which penetrates into it, accesses the ganglia, and eliminates the cells that are responsible for defending the organism against external pathogens.

A study carried out by a group of Spanish researchers at IrsiCaixa, which is included in the HIVACAT AIDS vaccine research and development program, has uncovered the role played by gangliosides, -Molecules present in the HIV membrane- that allow the virus to invade dendritic cells without being fragmented, so that these cells that should protect the organism against infection, act on the contrary as a 'Trojan horse' that facilitates the access of the virus to the immune system and favors the spread of the infection.

The study authors hope that their findings will help develop new drugs that act by blocking the gangliosides, thus inhibiting the spread of the virus.

It is the first time that scientists describe the mechanism that HIV uses to invade dendritic cells, and the authors of the study hope that their findings will help develop new drugs that act to block the gangliosides, thereby inhibiting the spread of the disease. virus.

During the study, the researchers altered the composition of the gangliosides on the surface of artificial viruses and found that only viruses that had specific gangliosides on their surface could penetrate dendritic cells, while eliminating these molecules from the AIDS virus prevented their entry in the cells. Nuria Izquierdo, researcher at IrsiCaixa explains that this shows that gangliosides are necessary for HIV to invade dendritic cells.

Javier Martínez-Picazo, who has led the research, recalled that there is no cure for AIDS at present, because antiretroviral therapiesAlthough they significantly improve the quality of life of patients, they do not prevent the virus from replicating, so the discovery could help create new drugs, which could even be administered in combination with the current treatment. Researchers are even considering the possibility of using this finding to design a vaccine that improves the effectiveness of the immune response against HIV.

Source: IrsiCaixa
Photo: © Olga Esteban and Nuria Izquierdo-Useros

Medical Animation: HIV and AIDS (November 2019).