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How HIV Infection Kills T Cells

DNA India
25 November 2010
Washington, DC USA

Scientists have solved a long–standing mystery about HIV infection– how the virus promotes the death of CD4 T cells.

It is the loss of this critical subset of immune cells that leads to the development of AIDS.

Most immune cells that die during HIV infection are seemingly not infected, a phenomenon formerly described as "bystander cell killing."

Now scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology report that these "bystander" cells are actually the victims of a failed or abortive form of viral infection.

"Our study reveals that the virus actually enters the CD4 T cells that are destined to die and that the virus starts to make a DNA copy of its RNA, a process called reverse transcription. However, this process does not work well in the majority of these cells and the incomplete DNA intermediates that accumulate in the cytoplasm are sensed and trigger the cells to 'commit suicide' in an attempt to protect the body," said Dr Gilad Doitsh, who performed many of the studies and is the lead author of the paper.

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