Secret of HIV’s natural born killers

Secret of HIV’s natural born killers

From Raw Story: Scientists on Sunday said they had found a key piece in the puzzle as
to why a tiny minority of individuals infected with HIV have a natural
ability to fight off the deadly AIDS virus.

In a study they said holds promise for an HIV vaccine, researchers
from four countries reported the secret lies not in the number of
infection-killing cells a person has, but in how well they work.

Only about one person in 300 has the ability to control the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without drugs, using a strain of “killer”
cells called cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) cells, previous research has

Taking that discovery further, scientists from the United States,
Canada, Japan and Germany reported that the strain has molecules called
receptors that are better able to identify HIV-infected white blood
cells for attack.

The study looked at 10 infected people, of whom five took
antiretroviral drugs to keep HIV under control while five were so-called
elite controllers who remained naturally healthy.

HIV kills a type of white blood cell called CD4, leaving people with
AIDS wide open to other, opportunistic and potentially deadly

“What we found was that the way the killer cells are able to see infected cells and engage them was different,” said Walker.

“It is not just that you need a killer cell, what you need is a
killer cell with a (T cell) receptor that is particularly good at
recognising the infected cell. This gives us a way to understand what it
is that makes a really good killer cell.”

Walker said attempts at creating vaccines had so far failed because
the T cell receptors they generated were not the efficient type.

“The next step is to determine what it is about those receptors that is endowing them with that ability,” said Walker.