A biological network thought to enable cells in the body to talk to one another may play a crucial role in how HIV spreads throughout the body, according to a National Institutes of Health study.
Composed of extracellular vesicles, this molecular network ordinarily is used for communication between healthy cells, but the study published in Scientific Reports reveals how HIV hijacks the molecules to help replicate the virus.
“If we remove extracellular vesicles from HIV laboratory preparations, we also reduce HIV infection of human tissues in culture,” Leonid Margolis, the article’s senior author, said in a press release. “Therapies that target extracellular vesicles could potentially hinder the ability of the virus to infect new cells.”
Although the EVs traveling between cells don’t technically carry HIV, the researchers think a protein they share with HIV cells weaken healthy cells, making them prone to infection, according to the release.