Some People Control HIV Without Drugs Due To 5 Amino Acids In A Protein

Medical News Today

Tiny differences in five amino acids in HLA-B, a protein, are linked to whether people can control levels of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) with just their immune systems, an international team of researchers wrote in the journal Science. These small variants in the protein appear to alert the immune system that there is an infection.

Co-senior author Bruce Walker, MD, director of the Ragon Institute, said:


We found that, of the three billion nucleotides in the human genome, just a handful make the difference between those who can stay healthy in spite of HIV infection and those who, without treatment, will develop AIDS. Understanding where this difference occurs allows us to sharpen the focus of our efforts to ultimately harness the immune system to defend against HIV.


Co-senior author, Paul de Bakker, PhD, of the Broad Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said:

Earlier studies had showed that certain genes involved with the HLA system were important for HIV control. But they couldn’t tell us exactly which genes were involved and how they produced this difference. Our findings take us not only to a specific protein, but to a part of that protein that is essential to its function.

The authors explain that approximately 1 in every 300 patients infected with HIV is naturally able to undermine viral replication just with their immune system, resulting in permanent very low viral loads.

Such people are known as HIV Controllers, or simply Controllers.

Florencia Pereyra, MD, at the Ragon Institute, set up the International HIV Controllers Study in 2006, in order to determine what genetic features drove this unique ability to keep viral loads down naturally. Their aim was to enroll 1,000 HIV controllers from clinics and centers of research worldwide. So far, 1,500 controllers have been enrolled and the goal was upped to 2,000 of them.

This study started with a GWAS (genome-wide association study) of nearly 1,000 controllers and 2,600 patients with progressive HIV infection, provided through a collaboration with the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

The GWAS located about 300 sites that were statistically linked to HIV immune control – all 300 sites were in chromosome 6, in the regions that code for HLA proteins. The scientists eventually pinned down the gene sites to four, but could not tell whether they were just located close to casual variants or really had an impact on viral control.

They could not fully sequence that genome region in all participants. They used a process developed by Sherman Jia to identify specific amino acids – directly testing those sites linked 5 amino acids within the HLA-B protein with variations in viral control. Sherman Jia is a medical student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program.


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HLA-B plays a vital role in the immune system’s process of identifying and destroying cells which are infected by virus. HLA-B usually attaches onto viral peptides (protein segments) inside the cell and carries them to the cell’s membrane where CD8 “killer” T cells are flagged to destroy the infected cell.

All the 5 identified amino acid sites are in the lining of the binding pocket – the part of the HLA-B protein that grabs and displays the viral peptides.



Bruce leading us into expensive nightmare (Observer Letter)

bruce-golding-hardtalk-may-2008.jpgHon. Bruce Golding with Stephen Sackur on HARDtalk – May 20th 2008

For your review View The Interview Online

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Meanwhile Maurice Tomlinson Wrote

Dear Editor,

Within the past two months leaders of two Caribbean countries have joined the call for the decriminalisation of buggery as an effective way to tackle the region’s HIV epidemic. At a recent UWI Cave Hill conference on HIV and Human Rights, Attorney Freundel Stuart, the new prime minister of Barbados, said that “even if rather than responding to nature’s promptings, (gays) were pursuing this lifestyle as a result of nurture, in which case they may have been exercising some measure of choice, the right to choose in these circumstances was protected by the constitution…”

At the recent Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS 10th AGM, the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Denzil Douglas said it was time to revisit these discriminatory laws, despite the political overtones.


It is clear that these two regional leaders have accepted that there will be political implications to proposing the decriminalisation of buggery in their countries, but they are at least willing to lead the crucial discussions to support their national fights against HIV and AIDS.

Such bold leadership contrasts with our own Prime Minister Bruce Golding who is also the current Caricom chairman. Despite the fact that Jamaica is facing the loss of funding from the Global Fund to fight this expensive incurable disease, he appears unwilling to set aside his obvious religious bias and have a frank discussion about decriminalisation of buggery.

In an interview at the United Nations in September, he actually justified the retention of the anti-buggery law in keeping with our “real fears” that the Jamaican family will be destroyed if adult gays are legally allowed to engage in their private consensual acts. Really, PM? Is that the best you can do? Once again your now legendary stubbornness seems set to doom Jamaica to an expensive nightmare.

Maurice Tomlinson

Montego Bay, St James