Friday, August 12, 2005

616: A cure for HIV?

Hitting HIV Where It Hides -- Cohen 2005 (811): 1 -- sciencenow:

One of the most effective defensive tools used by the AIDS virus is its ability to hide out in some of the body's cells. This has prevented even the most powerful drug regimens from completely eradicating HIV in patients. Now, scientists report a strategy that flushes the virus from its hideout, and they claim that it paves the way for a cure.

In 1996, early enthusiasm about the power of new anti-HIV drug cocktails led to a proposition that totally eradicating the virus from the body might take only 2 to 3 years of treatment. But the concept lost currency when it became clear that HIV hides out in reservoirs of "resting" CD4+ white blood cells from which it is very hard to dislodge.

The new study takes an unusually precise approach to dislodging the latent pool. Using evidence that an enzyme called histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) plays a crucial role in keeping CD4+ cells in a latent state, virologist David Margolis of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and colleagues gave AIDS patients valproic acid, an HDAC1 inhibitor that's licensed to treat epileptic seizures. Active CD4+ cells evict HIV from its hiding place, and the team administered a new drug, T-20, to help mop up bursts of the virus after the cells spat it out. After 4 months, the amount of infectious HIV in each patient's pool of latent cells declined an average of 75% in three of the four patients studied, the investigators report 13 August in The Lancet.
The resistance of HIV to treatment is a result of selection throughout its history, selection strengthened by treatment with the cocktails. This research is based on those evolutionary insights.