HIV infects immune cells and kills them, discovered by the scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This research suggests that preserving the immune systems of HIV-infected individuals is very important. HIV causes harm to CD4+ cells (infection-fighting human immune cells) through complex processes, such as inserting its genes into cellular DNA.
It has been found that in the integration step, a cellular enzyme called DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) becomes activated. Generally, this enzyme manages the repair of simultaneous breaks in both strands of molecules that comprise DNA. When HIV integrates its genes into cellular DNA, single-stranded breaks occur, where viral and cellular DNA meets.
Scientists discovered DNA activates DNA-PK when attacked by HIV. DNA-PK performs an unusually destructive role, eliciting a signal that causes the CD4+ T cell to die. The cells that die are the very ones mobilized to fight the infection.
Scientists believe that these new researches suggest that it is better to treat HIV-infected individuals with drugs. These drugs help in blocking the early steps of viral replication-up to and including activation of DNA-PK. The medications also can prevent viral replication and may improve CD4+ T cell survival and immune function.
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