Times of India
10 April 2010
Find May Help Prevent HIV Spread
In a medical breakthrough that may help prevent spread of HIV among women, scientists have claimed to have solved the mystery behind how HIV virus cross epithelial cells – that keeps out infection – and find its way into the female reproductive tract.
“What it (HIV virus) does is that it makes the electrical barrier resistance of epithelial cells decrease. By doing that, the virus can cross the barrier,” said lead researcher Charu Kaushic from McMaster University. The study that appears in the journal PLoS Pathogens reveals that HIV breaks down the protective mucosal barrier in the intestinal and female genital tract, allowing the virus to cross during intercourse.
The breakdown appears to be due to inflammatory factors produced by epithelial cells themselves, in response to HIV. This destroys the tight junctions between epithelial cells and gives HIV and other microbes access to inside the body, the researchers said.
For the study, the team grew purified primary epithelial cells in the laboratory from small pieces of tissues that were removed from women’s uterus during hysterectomies, with their consent. The team then studied how HIV actually interacts with these cells.
The researchers noticed that every time they put HIV on epithelial cells their resistance went down significantly. Repeated tests confirmed the observation. According to Kaushic, the surface protein of the virus causes the epithelial barrier to break.
“The surface protein signals to the inside of the epithelial cells by binding to it. The epithelial cells start making inflammatory proteins which cause these cells to go on their self-destructive pathway,” Kaushic said. Worldwide, half of the 40 million people infected with HIV are women. Among heterosexuals, women are the fastest growing group to be infected.
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