New research is offering hope to the 50,000 people the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, infects every year. Scientists have discovered a weakness in the virus – a persistent sweet tooth.

Teams from Northwestern University and Vanderbilt University have reportedly discovered a way to block the virus from feasting on the glucose in an infected patient’s bloodstream.

Dr. Richard D’Aquila of Northwestern’s HIV Translational Center elaborated on the possibilities the new research represents:

“This discovery opens new avenues for further research to solve today’s persisting problems in treating HIV infection: avoiding virus resistance to medicines, decreasing the inflammation that leads to premature aging, and maybe even one day being able to cure HIV infection.”

HIV Sugar / Glucose Study

First, let’s dive into how HIV operates. When a person contracts the virus, HIV quickly moves through the bloodstream, targeting CD4+ T-cells, which are the leading cells of our immune system. The virus immediately begins to steal the glucose supply of the immune system cell, allowing the virus to replicate.

In this study, reputed to be the first of its kind, the teams used a compound to block the immune cell’s pipeline of nutrients, including glucose. With HIV cells effectively cut off, its ability to reproduce is negated. Effectively, its sweet tooth is its downfall.

hiv cells glucose

It’s a promising study. It cuts HIV off, and the researchers were able to block HIV’s source of energy without harming healthy cells.

What Does the HIV Research Mean?

For now, it’s experimental. Human trials are a ways off, but the hope is it can lead to HIV treatments that do not rely on drug protocols. It can help prevent drug resistance, and offer doctors another tool to battle HIV.

It could also offer novel treatments for cancer patients in the future too. Cancer cells thrive on access to glucose in the bloodstream. Treatments that can cut them off from their energy source, while not harming healthy cells, could revolutionize treatments across a spectrum of diseases.

The study, published in PLOS Pathogens, does offer hope to the millions suffering from HIV. If the treatment can be translated from laboratory conditions to humans, it could be the breakthrough patients have been waiting for.

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