A researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has found similarities between leukemia and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Dr. Ran Taube of the department of microbiology, immunology and genetics at the Beersheba university maintains that his team’s discovery will lead to a “revolutionary diagnosis and the key to the clinical solution that will prevent infection with HIV and will destroy the deadly virus.”
Working in collaboration with Dr. Uri Rubio of Soroka University Medical Center, Taube found similarities between the two diseases as part of a study aiming to eradicate AIDS and hinder the development of leukemia.
Until the research was carried out, medical researchers had only limited information on the existence of a connection between AIDS and a rare blood cancer called mixed-lineage leukemia, which hinders the development of cells in the blood system and occurs mostly in children.
Even though AIDS can be treated with anti-retroviral therapy medications, no treatment has been found to prevent the spread of the HIV virus, and the number of individuals who are infected rises every year, said Taube. The reasons for this are varied, and include the fact that no vaccine has been developed against the virus. Anti-retrovirals that are currently administered do not prevent infection, so their efficacy is limited, Taube said.
Another central problem is the small number of inactive, latent viral particles found in the body that are not affected by anti-retroviral treatment, he continued.
These viruses are stored inside the body and manage to escape an immune response, and – at any given moment – can multiply and infect new cells.
Taube’s research recently received support from the American Leukemia Research Foundation.
“Like what happens in the AIDS virus when it enters the chronic state, similar mechanisms of reproduction control the expression of genes responsible for the development of hematopoietic stem cells,” said Taube. “The study is based on the supposition that harming the mechanisms of expression and reproduction of the viral genome is responsible for the accumulation of the latent virus and he chronic condition of the disease.”
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH