From Ed Yong
The vast majority of people who are infected with HIV go on to develop AIDS. Their bodies become riddled with the virus, their immune systems falter, and they are besieged by life-threatening infections. But not everyone shares the same fate. Around 1 in every 300 people infected with HIV carry genetic trump cards that allow them to resist and control the virus. These “HIV controllers” can live with the virus for years. They never develop AIDS and they live long, healthy lives, even if they never take any medication. Their genetic secrets are slowly being revealed.
Researchers studying thousands of people with HIV, some with the controllers and some without, found something surprising:
Amazingly, every single one of these variants sits within a specific part of our sixth chromosome, among a set of genes called class I HLAgenes. The proteins they produce form part of the internal security checks that defend us from infections. They grab small pieces of other proteins from inside our cells and display them on the outside, waving them under the noses of passing T-cells. If the T-cells recognise these pieces as parts of bacteria, viruses or other foreign invaders, they tell the infected cell to self-destruct and set the immune system on red alert.
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Image: Wikimedia / HIV Budding