Healthline News reports that according to a new study, the “genetic quirk” of naturally low levels of cholesterol might be why some untreated HIV+ people take more than a decade to develop symptoms. The study sample is quite small.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analyzed data and biological samples from 16 HIV-positive men over the course of 11 years. Eight of them, even without medication, showed little disease progression. The other half showed normal progression. Among the slowly progressing patients, called “non-progressors,” the researchers found low levels of cholesterol in immune system cells called dendritic cells. They believe that the cholesterol-deprived dendritic cells, which transfer HIV to T-cells, may not be able to do their job. If HIV cannot get to the body’s T-cells, also known as CD4 helper cells, the virus has no way to replicate, the scientists hypothesize. None of the study participants were taking cholesterol-lowering medications, known as statins. The low cholesterol in their immune system cells was the natural result of their genetic makeup.
The study of HIV+ non-progressors is just one of the avenues of vaccine research. (Tipped by JMG reader Eric)