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How HIV Cripples Immune Cells

In order to be able to ward off disease pathogens, immune cells must be mobile and be able to establish contact with each other. The working group around Professor Dr. Oliver Fackler in the Virology Department of the Hygiene Institute of the Heidelberg University Hospital has discovered a mechanism in an animal model revealing how HIV, the AIDS pathogen, cripples immune cells: Cell mobility is inhibited by the HIV Nef protein.

The study was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. This discovery may have pointed the way towards a new treatment approach.

Over 30 million persons worldwide are infected with HIV. Typically, after the initial infection accompanied by acute symptoms, there is a latency period of several years before the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) manifests. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has developed numerous strategies for eluding the body's defenses and the medications administered. The prerequisite for efficient reproduction of the virus in the patient’s body is the virus’s own Nef protein. Without Nef, the development of AIDS is significantly slowed or even stopped completely. The underlying mechanism of this observation was a complete mystery up to now, however.
 
 

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