The oldest mystery about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – shown here infecting a T cell – has come one step closer to being solved. Patients with HIV can today lead almost normal lives thanks to very effective anti-viral drugs that stop the virus from multiplying. But as soon as they stop taking the drugs, the virus flares up again, even after years. This is baffling because the cell types that HIV most obviously infects have short lives. Yet HIV lurks for decades. Thus researchers wondered whether memory T stem cells – an important group of immune cells that live for many years and control other immune cells – could be HIV’s main hideout. Their hunch was confirmed and now new strategies for fighting HIV that borrow from decades-long research into cancer drugs targeting the long-lived tumour stem cells are being investigated.
Written by Tristan Farrow
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