Long before, experts have regarded the human reproductive system and intestinal tract are lined with a protective layer of cells, called as the mucosa. Now, a new research conducted by scientists at Gladstone have recently revealed that certain breaches in the reproductive and intestinal tracts may potentially allow HIV to access a common cell type which would result to an increased risk of HIV transmission. Surprisingly, experts have discovered that fibroblasts, a group of connective tissue cells that are one of the most abundant types of cells in the mucosa, may greatly increase the risk of HIV infection of immune cells. Thus, researchers are convinced that understanding how these cells aid HIV could lead to new methods that prevent HIV transmission.
Why Do HIV Virus Attack Common Cells?
In one of her statements reported by Science Daily, visiting investigator at Gladstone and assistant professor at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Nadia Roan, PhD who also happens to be the senior author of the study has revealed that they are primarily interested in understanding how cells commonly found in mucosal tissues affect the ability of HIV to infect immune cells. In conducting their study, the team has discovered that, remarkably, mucosal fibroblasts could potently increase how well HIV infected immune cells. Additionally, the researchers have also examined mucosal fibroblasts from the cervix, uterus, foreskin, male urethra, and intestines which are all known as the portals of HIV entry.
Furthermore, according to Gladstone Institutes, researchers have revealed that in their future studies that are supported by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers will allegedly study exactly as to how mucosal fibroblasts make immune cells more "infectable" which could ultimately lead to new targets for preventing HIV. Additionally, what the scientists have also discovered was that in contrast to fibroblasts, epithelial cells secrete high levels of antiviral proteins since it was found that these cells allow helpful substances to pass through to tissues in the body and also provide a barrier against harmful substances.
Meanwhile, Warner Greene, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Immunology and Virology who was also a senior investigator on the study has claimed that their findings mainly suggests that breaches in the mucosa allow HIV to bypass an antiviral environment in order to access fibroblasts, which in turn boost levels of HIV infection in CD4 T cells. Ultimately, the team believes that by being able to determine the specific cells that allow HIV to take advantage of breaches in our defenses will enable us to find better ways to limit HIV transmission rates.