Though it has been over five hundred years since the Black Death devastated the population of Europe, life science researchers today believe that we can learn something about HIV infections by studying the genetic aftermath of the plague.
Dr. Kenneth Sherman, a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati, decided to look at the genetic background of the survivors of the plague. He found a particular genetic marker that they all shared:
"Research showed that Europeans and people of European descent who were selected genetically through their ancestors during the plague—the black death of Europe—and they have the CCR5-delta 32 mutation,” Dr. Sherman explains in a University of Cincinnati article.
According to Dr. Sherman, the CCR5 mutation protected individuals from the plague. Now, he speculates that history is repeating itself. CCR5 is a chemokine receptor found on immune cells that HIV traditionally hijacks in order to disable the immune cells. The same mutation that protected against the plague so many years ago may also prevent HIV from hijacking immune cells. Sherman is planning on testing his theory with a co-infection of Hepatitis C, which is known to cause liver damage.
"If over the next few years, we can show that CCR5 blockade protects HIV-infected people from liver disease, then we may change the entire treatment paradigm of HIV and make this part of the routine treatment of many or most patients,” says Sherman.
This research was supported by a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. If funding information for the research at UC interests you, consider reading our free University of Cincinnati Funding Stats and Vendor Show Info report, accessible here:
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