Blocking type I interferon protein can help reinstate the immune system of the body that fights against viral infections — making it possible to assist in battling HIV.
Why Type I Interferon Protein?
Type I interferon is the protein that activates immune cells in the body when it is hit by a viral infection. When a chronic viral infection like HIV invades a body, the CD4 T immune cells that are triggered by the protein get destroyed by the virus, resulting in paralysis of the immune system.
CD4 T cells are quite vital cells as they signal and trigger another type of T cells, the CD8 T, which are responsible for destroying HIV fouled cells. However, HIV escapes detection from the CD8 T cells by continuously mutating and dodging them. Gradually, the immune cells stop functioning and discontinue clearing the infected cells. Soon, they lose the battle to HIV, eventually resulting in the destruction of the immune system.
Blocking Type I Interferon Controls Immune System Activation
A team led by UCLA researcher performed a study on mice and concluded that temporarily blocking the Type I interferon protein can help fight HIV invasion. Blocking the protein decreases the chronic activation of the immune cells, which helps to give a chance to the weakened CD8 T cells to recover their abilities and fighting potency. Additionally, by using antiretroviral therapy, it may be possible to reinstate the failing immune system and eliminating HIV throughout the body.
"We show that the type of interferon being produced during chronic stages of HIV infection has detrimental effects on the body's ability to fight off HIV and other types of infection or cancer and could actually be contributing to accelerated HIV disease," said Scott Kitchen, the study's senior author from David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Findings To Be Confirmed Before Considering Human Clinical Trials
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was conducted using "humanised mice," the mice that have their immune system replaced with human immune system cells, bone marrow and thymus tissue. The HIV infected mice was treated with antibodies that blocked the Type I interferon protein and soon the mice's immune system started to relapse from being destructed.
This process, in turn, helped the immune system to trigger and signal adequate amount of CD8 T cells that were meant to fight and destroy the HIV infected cells. Combining this procedure with antiretroviral therapy resulted in speeding suppression of HIV.
According to Kitchen, the findings give a proof of principle in mice, but they are not perfect. More research needs to be performed on other animals to ensure the treatment is safe, before considering them for human clinical trials.