This is pretty incredible!
Scientists in the U.S. and Europe have figured out that if we take cholesterol out of the virus's membranes, it's akin to "disarming" those jerks.
The leader of the study:
"It's like an army that has lost its weapons but still has flags, so another army can recognize it and attack it."
This gives scientists a whole new way to look at creating a vaccine!!
Here's what they're doing specifically:
HIV takes its membrane from the cell that it infects, the researchers explained in their study. This membrane contains cholesterol, which helps keep it fluid and enables it to interact with particular types of cell.
Normally, a subset of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) recognize HIV quickly and react by producing signaling molecules called interferons. These signals activate various processes which are initially helpful, but which damage the immune system if switched on for too long.
Working with scientists Johns Hopkins University, the University of Milan and Innsbruck University, Boasso's team found that if cholesterol is removed from HIV's envelope, it can no longer activate pDCs. As a result, T cells, which orchestrate the adaptive response, can fight the virus more effectively.
So badass. We hope this leads to a vaccine, because let's face it: AIDs kills about 1.8 million people a year. 2.6 million people are thought to have caught HIV in 2009. There are about 33 million people living with it right now. Some don't even know.
That's way too many. One is way too many. We need to find out how to stop it!
[Image via AP Images.]