Going against the gut

Why blocking T cell entry into the gut could get HIV patients off of ART

While patients might have a long wait for an HIV vaccine, several groups are working on the next best thing: strategies that boost patient immune systems to control the infection without the need for daily antiretroviral therapy (ART). Now, a team led by NIH’s Anthony Fauci has reported that preventing CD4+ T cells from homing to the gut might actually accomplish that goal.

By using an antibody to block integrin α4β7 - a surface protein used by CD4+ T cells to gain entry to the gut - in a monkey model of HIV, the researchers showed that animals could be taken off ART with no sign of viral rebound for nearly two years, raising the possibility the mAb could represent a “functional cure.”

Fauci is director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and collaborated with Emory University professor of pathology Aftab Ansari to carry out the study.

Ansari told BioCentury the gut is the largest organ system that regularly interfaces with material from the external world, and is thus full of activated CD4+ T

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