Westmead Institute for Medical Research researchers have uncovered complete new cells – called CD11c+ dendritic cells – that could facilitate the spread of HIV, transmitting the virus to other cells.
These cells were discovered in human genital tissues, mainly in the epithelial layer of the anus, vagina and inner foreskin. CD11c+ dendritic cells of these areas are the first to come into contact with HIV.
Andrew Harman, associate professor for Westmead Institute For Medical Research, said the roles of these cells is to seize and send incoming-disease-causing pathogen to the CD4 T cells. These cells are then responsible for creating the body’s immune response. He said the virus replicates because they are the key HIV target cells.
Basically, the dendritic cells provide the CD4 T cells in the lymph nodes with constant updates so the immune system can attack the pathogen or tolerate it. When the CD4 T cells fall below a certain level, the body can no longer provide an immune response, which is when a person is diagnosed with having hands.
Harman said the team’s research shows the CD11c+ dendritic cells are prone more to HIV infection than other dendritic cells. It also proved that the cells communicate more effectively with the CD4 T cells than other cells while also transferring the virus to those cells, leading to the HIV infection.
Since the cells are so effective in their interaction with CD4 T cells, they can be used in providing a vaccine.
Westmead Institute for Medical Research Professor Tony Cunningham was a co-lead author of the study. He said the finding has produced two new paths medical researchers can go down in their pursuit of effective HIV treatments.
Cunningham said it could help with the development of processes that block HIV transmission. By blocking the virus’ ability to connect with the CD11c+ dendritic cells, then it could stop the transmission to the CD4 T cells. In situations where the CD 4 T-cell viral count I slow, this could hinder the virus from being spread.
The other path, Cunningham said, is to take the information and come up with an HIV vaccine. If the inactivated HIV targeted the CD11c+ cells, it could trigger the body’s immune to respond against HIV when it hits the body.