French scientists appear to have made not so much a small step but a giant leap in HIV research. In a press release, Paris’s Institut Pasteur announces that researchers have destroyed “reservoir” cells, i.e. infected immune cells. Their findings were published in the Cell Metabolism journal on December 20.
In the release, the scientists note that current antiretroviral therapy can’t eliminate HIV from a patient’s body because the virus lurks in CD4 T lymphocytes, a type of immune cell that represents the “main target of HIV.” Specifically, the virus “primarily targets cells with high metabolic activity” and “hijacks the energy and products provided by the cell.”
So the scientists used metabolic activity inhibitors — similar to those already investigated in cancer research — to block the infection.
“We have observed ex vivo that, thanks to certain metabolic inhibitors, the virus is no longer able to infect cells and amplification is halted in reservoirs of patients receiving antiretroviral treatment,” said study coordinator Asier Saez-Cirion.
Now that they’ve observed these results ex vivo — outside of the body — their next step is to assess the potential of the metabolic inhibitors in vivo — within the body.
The study was funded by the Institut Pasteur, AmfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) and the French HIV/AIDS nonprofit Sidaction.