DNA Protein Found That Bolsters Weak Immune System

By Matthew Van Atta

Originally published on Advocate.com March 04 2008 12:00 AM ET

A protein found
in some people's DNA can shield them from viral attacks
such as HIV, a North American research team has discovered.

''Our group has
found how the key protein, FOX03a, is vital to the
survival of central memory cells that are defective in
HIV-infected individuals even if they are treated,''
lead researcher Rafick-Pierre Sékaly said in a
press release.

The breakthrough
emerged after studying three groups of men: one
HIV-negative sample, a second HIV-positive group whose
infection was successfully controlled through
tritherapy, and a third group whose HIV did not show
any symptoms. Members of the third group avoided infection
without treatment because their immune systems, which would
normally be attacked by HIV, stayed resilient through
the regulation of the FOX03a protein.

''Given their
perfect resistance to HIV infection, elite controllers
represent the ideal study group to examine how proteins are
responsible for the maintenance of an immune system
with good antiviral memory,'' said research team
member Elias El Haddad in the press release. ''This is
the first study to examine in people rather than animals
what shields the body’s immune system from
infection and to pinpoint the fundamental role of
FOX03a in defending the body.''

Public support
for the research came through Genome Canada
and Génome Québec as well as other public
funds and private contributions. (The Advocate)