August 22, 2022

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the body’s immune system and, if not treated, can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Because of medical advancements, including antiretroviral therapy (ART), many people now live long lives with HIV, but researchers believe long-term viral control in the absence of ART (i.e. remission) might be possible. 

In pursuit of an HIV remission, researchers at the Emory National Primate Research Center (EPC) are working to lower HIV persistence. They recently discovered the anti-inflammatory protein, interleukin-10, may be responsible for helping sustain cellular reservoirs, which enable the virus to hide. This breakthrough may lead to treatments that can block the effects of interleukin-10 and, therefore, reduce viral persistence, which is critical to finding alternative therapies to control HIV. 

The team worked with rhesus macaques infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the animal form of HIV, to determine how interleukin-10 regulates the survival of cells known to harbor HIV. The team also studied the effects of blocking this protein to determine if doing so would reduce the persistence of the virus when used in combination with ART.

Mirko Paiardini, PhD, senior author of the study, said when his research team looked at lymph node tissues, they found the vast majority of cells infected with SIV were within close proximity to cells expressing interleukin-10. This was the case in both chronically infected animals and in those treated with ART.

The team found in the monkeys treated with ART and an antibody against interleukin-10 a significant reduction in the frequency of immune cells harboring SIV in the macaques’ lymph nodes. The discovery confirms Interleukin-10 signaling is critically involved in promoting the survival of the cells harboring the virus and warrants further research in nonhuman primates.

Back to top