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How Sickle Cell Research May Lead to a Cure for HIV-1

January 30, 2017 by Andrea


For decades, it's been common knowledge that people with sickle cell disease have built-in protection from malaria. Initially, it was assumed that this protection came in the form of actual resistance, prevention of infection. It wasn't until 2011 that researchers discovered that infection does indeed happen, but sickle cell disease hinders malaria from taking over. Essentially, malaria and the body coexist peacefully.

And now, new research out of Howard University in Washington, D.C. shows that malaria may not be the only disease those with sickle cell are able to fend off more easily than others. On Thursday (Jan. 26), scientists at Howard's Sickle Cell Center announced a breakthrough relating to why sickle cell warriors seem to contract HIV-1 at lower rates than others.

Their study, which was published in the December issue of "Blood Advances," shows that the way iron is metabolized by sickle cell patients gives these same patients protection from HIV-1. In a statement to Howard's Office of University Communications, one of the lead researchers, Dr. Sergei Nekhai, said, "Understanding mechanisms of natural barriers for HIV-1 infection, such as these that we described in sickle cell disease, may open new therapeutic opportunities for treatment and may provide new approaches for the permanent cure of HIV-1 infection."

For more information on this study and its findings, check out the full article here.

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