Thursday, 3 October 2013

Scientific Struggle against HIV/AIDS: A New Dimension

I was going through an article online and I found this research breakthrough in relation to the deadly disease, HIV/AIDS and thought I should also bring it to your doorstep. As we all know the disease has given every one around the world a cause to worry. From campaigns to awareness to scientific researches and so on, there is an undeniable fact that the world has been greatly shaken by this deadly virus. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are currently 35.3 million people living with the virus and in the past three decades, it has killed more than 25 million people. 

In the human body, HIV infections cause a severe depletion of T-cells which are helper cells. These T helper cells are types of white blood cell that plays a major role in the immune system. HIV infections therefore results when the virus enters T-cells of the immune system by binding to the surface receptor CD4. Once it enters the cell, it replicates itself gradually, and then spreads to other healthy T-cells by releasing the virus. This spread can occur between an infected T-cell and an uninfected attached T-cell.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge, England, United Kingdom in a journal BioMed Central which was published on 1st of October has revealed that a mutant of an immune cell protein called ADAP (adhesion and degranulation-promoting adaptor protein) is able to block infection by HIV-1.The scientists found that an this mutant is able to interfere with HIV-1 infection by targeting two events, the first which is to reduce the replication of the virus and the second which is to prevent contact between infected and uninfected T-cells.
The scientists were funded by the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The study is titled  “Immune adaptor ADAP in T cells regulates HIV-1 transcription and cell-cell viral spread via different co-receptors.” is believed to lead to new ways of combating HIV.

In addition to this research, another group of researchers from the Northwestern University, Illinois, United States found that new intravaginal ring filled with an anti-retroviral drug could help prevent HIV infection. This paper titled “Intravaginal Ring Eluting Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate Completely Protects Macaques from Multiple Vaginal Simian-HIV Challenges.” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on September 16. The ring was developed with support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases by Northwestern University visiting associate professor Patrick Kiser. The ring according to the research conducted is easy to use, long lasting, and has demonstrated a 100% success rate protecting primates from the simian immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). HIV infected women has been on the rise for a decade and in sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 60% of people living with the disease. Although preventative drugs exist, they have often proven ineffective, especially in light of financial and cultural barriers in these developing nations. 

Professor Chris Rudd from the Department of Pathology, who led the research, said: “One exciting aspect about this new target for HIV intervention is that we should be able to fight HIV without compromising the immune system’s ability to battle infections.” He further added that “The ADAP mutant is potent in its interference of HIV-1 transmission because it targets simultaneously two critical events, viral replication and the spread of the virus from one T-cell to another.

The new ring discovered is easily inserted and stays in place for 30 days. And because it is delivered at the site of transmission, the ring known as a TDF-IVR (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate intravaginal ring), utilizes a smaller dose than pills. The ring contains powdered tenofovir, an anti-retroviral drug that is taken orally by 3.5 million HIV-infected people worldwide, but that has not previously been studied topically. But the ring’s strength originates from its unique polymer construction: its elastomer swells in the presence of fluid, delivering up to 1,000 times more of the drug than current intra-vaginal ring technology, such as NuvaRing, which are made of silicon and have release rates that decline over time.

According to the researchers, the upcoming clinical trial, to be conducted in November at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, will evaluate the ring in 60 women over 14 days. The trial will assess the ring’s safety and measure how much of the drug is released and the properties of the ring after use. Other drugs such as contraceptives or antiviral drugs could also be incorporated into the ring to prevent other sexually transmitted infections, a feature that could increase user rates, Patrick Kiser explained. He further mentioned that the flexibility to engineer this system to deliver multiple drugs and change release rates is extraordinary and could have a significant impact on women’s health.

I believe with this kind of innovative research, HIV/AIDS could soon become something that is no longer referred to as deadly. As we come closer to finding the cure with ongoing researches around the world, I can only say for now that care must still be taken. Lets spread the news, lets spread the campaign and not spread the virus.

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