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HIV breakthrough: Researchers identify protein that fights immunodeficiency


Montreal, QC – Canada-US research team has solved a major genetic mystery: How a protein in some people’s DNA guards them against killer immune diseases such as HIV. In an advance online edition of Nature Medicine, the scientists explain how the protein, FOX03a, shields against viral attacks and how the discovery will help in the development of a HIV vaccine.

“HIV infection is characterized by the slow demise of T-cells, in particular central memory cells, which can mediate lifelong protection against viruses,” said lead researcher Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, a Universite de Montreal professor and a researcher at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal and the French Institut national de la sant et de la recherche mdicale (Inserm).

“Our group has found how the key protein, FOX03a, is vital to the survival of central memory cells that are defective in HIV-infected individuals even if they are treated,” added Dr Sekaly, who produced his study with CHUM and Inserm colleagues including Elias El Haddad and Julien van Grevenynghe. Collaborators also included Jean-Pierre Routy, a McGill University Health Centre researcher and professor at McGill University and Robert S Balderas, vice-president of research and development at BD Biosciences of San Diego, CA.