Research focuses on role lymph node fibrosis plays in HIV eradication
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There are many complications that come with being infected with the HIV virus. Among them is lymph node fibrosis, or the scarring of a person’s lymph nodes. This scarring, which can begin within days of HIV infection, makes it difficult for lymph nodes, which are responsible for fighting infection, to respond. In fact, lymph node fibrosis can cause irreversible damage to one’s immune system.
The Campbell Foundation has awarded a $75,000 grant to Dr. Netanya Utay, an assistant professor in the department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, to study the role lymph node fibrosis may play in HIV eradication. Research has shown that people with more scarring have less improvement in T-cells on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“Lymph node fibrosis appears to decrease the amount of antiretroviral drugs that reach the virus in the lymph node, enabling HIV to persist there,” said Dr. Utay. “Therapies to prevent and treat fibrosis are limited. Our research could identify new approaches to decrease fibrosis in lymph nodes and potentially other tissues in people living with HIV.”
Dr. Utay and her team have been testing telmisartan, a drug that can decrease, or even prevent fibrosis in other conditions. She found that although telmisartan had no effect, lymph node fibrosis decreased in some patients, but not in others with antiretroviral drugs alone. Now, she plans to take her research a step further by using two other key drivers of fibrosis: Interleukin 13 (IL-13), which activates cells involved in tissue repair and contributes to fibrosis in other diseases, and Interleukin 33 (IL-33), which stimulates other cells as well as IL-13 production. The goal of this grant is to determine the contribution of the IL-13 and IL-33 pathways of fibrosis and different cell types to changes in lymph node fibrosis.
“Ultimately, this could result in better ART penetration into lymphoid tissue, decreased HIV burden in the lymphoid tissue and better immunologic responses. It also may result in the creation of new therapies that could reverse fibrosis,” said The Campbell Foundation’s Executive Director Ken Rapkin.
About The Campbell Foundation
The Campbell Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Richard Campbell Zahn as a private, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It focuses its funding on supporting alternative, nontraditional avenues of research. In its 23nd year, the Campbell Foundation has given away more than $11 million, with about $1.2 million going to direct services.