A Quebec discovery could strengthen the immune system in the face of AIDS

These findings could have repercussions in the fight against health problems other than AIDS, (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Work carried out at the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS) could one day lead to the development of therapies that would allow the immune system to fight AIDS more effectively.

Scientists already knew that the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, particularly attacks a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in the immune system, CD4 lymphocytes.

Doctoral student Hamza Loucif and Professor Julien van Grevenynghe have shown that by optimizing the energy metabolism of these key cells, people with HIV could better defend themselves against the virus.

With a better metabolism, these white blood cells would see their role increased in the protection against the virus and therefore in the improvement of the response of the immune system.

“It’s a little bit like looking at a car and looking at the problem by looking at the bodywork, whereas you have to look a little more at the engine, which is a little bit at the very origin of the problem. good bodywork and ensuring a good way to operate for the car ”, illustrated Professor van Grevenynghe.

In other words, he and his colleague showed that it should be possible to restore these immune cells to their former efficiency by improving their “engine” (their metabolism).

This metabolic optimization exploits a cell recycling process called autophagy. Autophagy in CD4 cells provides amino acids to fuel the mitochondria which serves as an energy powerhouse. This energy is then used to secrete the protein interleukin-21 (IL-21) which plays a key role in the defense against HIV.

In previous work, Professor van Grevenynghe and his team found that interleukin-21 would be able to optimize the energy supply and immune function of lymphocytes.

“There are individuals in nature who are able to fully coexist with (HIV) without the need for medication,” said the researcher. We try to understand what these individuals have best compared to others, and what really interested us and which made these two successive publications is the fact of realizing that these individuals have a metabolic advantage, an advantage. the ‘engine’ of their car. “

These discoveries could have repercussions in the fight against health problems other than AIDS, since several diseases also present a metabolic imbalance, he added.

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