Improve energy metabolism in patients infected with HIV as a therapeutic route

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) particularly attacks CD4 lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell considered to be the conductor of the immune system.

MONTREAL and LAVAL, Oct. 14, 2021 / CNW Telbec / – Hamza Loucif, doctoral student in virology and immunology, and Julien van Grevenynghe, professor at the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), have shown that by optimizing the energy metabolism of these key cells, people with HIV-1 can better defend themselves against the virus. Indeed, with a better metabolism, the role of these white blood cells in the protection against the virus, and therefore in the improvement of the response of the immune system, becomes more important.

A combined action

This metabolic optimization exploits the process of cell recycling, called “autophagy”. And it would have a double positive effect! Autophagy in CD4 cells provides amino acids, including glutamine, to fuel the mitochondria which serves as an energy powerhouse for cells. This energy is then used to secrete the protein interleukin-21 (IL-21) which plays a key role in the defense against HIV-1.

Researchers have shown in a previous study that IL-21 helps “re-educate” the immune system of patients with HIV. Indeed, the protein optimizes the energy supply of immune cell CD8 lymphocytes and, by the same token, their defense system.

A promising path

“It is important that a single treatment works positively on the entire immune system, not just on a subpopulation of cells. Since the latter help each other and communicate with each other, the beneficial effect of autophagy for different cell populations supports the importance of this pathway from a therapeutic point of view ”, underlines Professor van Grevenynghe.

“Our results corroborate and consolidate the therapeutic utility of autophagy against HIV-1 and, potentially, other viral infections. This molecular mechanism has the potential to orchestrate an effective antiviral response by providing various energetic substances to fuel the mitochondrial metabolism ”, reports Hamza Loucif.

The majority of people infected with HIV-1 require daily antiretroviral therapy, which does not fully restore their immune system to function. Acting on the metabolic pathway could potentially provide natural protection against the virus.

Health Index publication: 2021-10-14 – Number of visits since publication: 7

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