“Trained” Immune Cells Could Be Key to Controlling HIV Naturally

HIV controllers

There are specific antibodies and T cells in the human body that help fight specific pathogens after infection or vaccination. The immune system has an innate immune response that uses many techniques to provide swift, non-specialized response against pathogens or support adaptive immune response. Scientists have been trying to find methods of controlling HIV naturally through an immune response. 

According to a news report, Xu Yu, a Core Member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, and his colleagues have researched certain parts of the innate immune response. Their study revealed that there are elite controllers, a rare subset of people whose immune system can control HIV.

They can do this without the drugs and have myeloid dendritic cells, part of the innate immune response that displays traits of a trained natural immune cell. The dendritic cell’s primary job is to support T cells, a key component of the elite controller’s ability to control HIV infection. Yu added that using RNA-sequencing tech, they found a long-non-coding RNA called MIR4435-2HG.

MIR4435-2HG has higher levels only in cells from elite controllers. Yu and his colleagues also noticed that the combination of dendritic cells and MIR4435-2HG produced a high protein called RPTOR, which drives metabolism. The increased metabolism allows myeloid dendritic cells to better support T cells, thereby controlling HIVinfection. 

Additionally, the team discovered that MIR4435-2HG might work if attached to the DNA near the RPTOR gene location. YU noted that understanding how elite controllers’ immune systems control HIV is essential to HIV cure research. 

Once scientists understand how elite controllers suppress the virus, it would be easier for them to develop treatments that allow people with HIV to replicate the same immune response for controlling HIV naturally. This way, eradicating the need and usage of daily PrEP drugs like Truvada will be possible, and scientists can achieve a functional cure. 

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