University of Iowa researchers are taking part in an international study that’s working to determine why some H-I-V-positive patients never develop AIDS, even if they’ve taken no medication. Dr. Jack Stapleton, a professor in the U-of-I’s division of infectious diseases, says they’re trying to unlock secrets at a genetic level to learn how some people with H-I-V manage to resist the potential killer of AIDS.
“By studying outliers, you’re more like to find factors about those people that allow them to control the virus,” Dr. Stapleton says. “By learning that, the hope is that you can translate that into a new approach to treatment that would mimic the effect of the particular person’s immune system.”
Stapleton says they’re studying these patients in what’s called a genome-wide association, comparing their genetics to other H-I-V-infected people who are not immune to AIDS. He says he’s encouraged by the progress, as this tactic could eventually zero in on a change in the human immune system, not in the AIDS virus itself.
“The virus mutates so rapidly and grows to such high numbers that I don’t think we’ll ever be able to suppress the virus completely in all people without it mutating to escape the effects of medicines and possibly vaccines,” Stapleton says. “If we can somehow manipulate the human immune system so that it controls the virus, then the virus will have a much harder time mutating to escape that.”
Researchers from the U-of-I are a key part of the international study being led by Harvard University. The research is appearing today in the journal “Science.”