Scientists looking for a treatment for AIDS, studying genetic resistance to infection

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ST. PETERSBURG, March 20. /Offset. TASS Natalia Mikhalchenko/. Genetics will continue to study the phenomenon of resistance of the population of Europe to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in order to find effective methods for the treatment of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS, a fatal disease caused by HIV). This was reported by the St. Petersburg journalists Stephen O’brien, Professor of St. Petersburg University, head of the Center for genome bioinformatics behalf of SPBU Dobzhansky.

“The search for the genetic mechanisms of healing AIDS is not exhausted, it is possible to develop this direction,” said O’brien .

The study of Russians

Under the leadership of the rector of SPSU Nikolay Kropachev, Professor O’brien and another 50 Russian scientists in Russia is implementing a research project “Russian genome”, aimed at studying the genetic characteristics of the indigenous population of Russia, which constituted 10% of the genetic diversity of the diversity of the world.

“Our research consortium explores 3,000 native inhabitants of Russia – 60% are Russian and 40% – other nationalities, 1200 samples of genetic material already obtained, 273 genome cloned and sequenced, told O’brien. We have found a lot of surprises, but should be confident in their findings and check the results 2-3 times. By the autumn of this year, we plan to announce the first discoveries in the framework of the research.”

HIV and smallpox in one bottle

He said that the basis of our research lies in a genetic mutation characteristic of the population of Europe, the CCR5-32. “This mutation is most common in the Nordic countries – Scotland, Ireland, in Russia it occurs in 8% of the population, and in Africa and China is not found at all,” said Professor O’brien.


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According to him, it arose in humans about 3000 years ago and was present in European populations in one case per 100 thousand population, and now there is every fifth inhabitant of Europe. According to the scientist the distribution of mutations increased after the epidemic of black (natural) smallpox in Europe, since the same mutation associated resistance of the person to the virus of smallpox.

Scientists suggest that the strain of smallpox crossed over to humans from camels in the beginning of a new era. It is known that in 737 smallpox became extinct more than 30% of Japan’s population, in the XV century in Europe because of the epidemic killed millions of people in America, the virus is completely destroyed many tribes. The first in the history of medicine were vaccinated against smallpox, serum was obtained from material cows. Smallpox was the first disease vanquished by vaccination, the last case of infection was in 1978.

Stephen O’brien explained that the CCR5 gene is “the only gate for entrance of the HIV virus in the human body”, and the mutation CCR5-32 closes the gate, making the infection impossible.

According to the head of the laboratory of immunology and Virology of HIV, Institute Pasteur Alexander Semenov, resistance to HIV infection has the part of the indigenous population of the North-West (Veps, Karelians, Finns). 18% of this group of the population of Russia such immunity heterozygous (inherited from one parent), 1% homozygous (inherited from both parents).

Cured the patient in a synthetic correction

Stephen O’brien told the story of the patient, an AIDS patient who was transplanted bone marrow from a donor with resistance to HIV virus, causing the disease.

“In 2007, an American living in Germany, received the donor bone marrow cells from one of the carriers of mutations with resistance to HIV. He recovered. The world’s only person cured of AIDS. After 7 years his body had no trace of HIV, ” said O’brien, 25 years headed the laboratory of the National Institute of health, USA, where he began a study of the relationship of HIV infection with specific mutations.

Continued research in the area of donation of bone marrow for AIDS patients has led to the fact that a third of patients died from introduced donor material into the body of patients with infections. So it was changed to the method – instead of a bone marrow transplant gene mutation CCR5-32 were implanted in the material obtained from the patient, and then returned to his own material with modification. “Some patients with synthetically added fragments of the gene mutation CCR5-32 feel good, but not all,” said O’brien.

Alexander Semenov, in turn, noted that immune to HIV people, this same feature gives an increased predisposition to certain cancers (breast cancer in women and colon cancer in men), so to replicate this method is dangerous.

Optimistic O’brien in relation to the applicability of the genetic mechanisms for getting rid of AIDS is associated with the laws of evolution. “Many animals have the disease, similar to that of humans, and because animals have no hospitals, pharmacies and doctors, they are the only way of coping is adaptation. Lions have a gene that prevents infection by a virus similar to the HIV virus. The Cougars have a genetic opposed to avian influenza. Theodosius Dobzhansky, the founder of modern genetics, which gave our centre of St. Petersburg state University, said that “nothing in biology makes no sense to consider except through the prism of evolution”, ” said O’brien.

AIDS in Russia

According to who, the world since the beginning of the HIV infected 38 million people, including 8 million children. The infection occurs at a rate of 2.5 million people annually, 2 million die a year from AIDS. The number infected with HIV approached the flu-the Spanish flu was raging in 1918-1920 and killed 40-50 million people, while world war I – 15 million According to Ministry of health of the Russian Federation, on 30 July 2016 in Russia were officially registered 1 million 62 thousand 475 persons living with HIV, 992 225 thousand Russians have died of AIDS (terminal stage of infection in the body).

The sharp rise, according to Semenov, started in 2014. Widely the infection has spread in the Sverdlovsk, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Samara, Orenburg, and Leningrad regions. In St. Petersburg 964,4 infected on 100 thousand population of the city, that is, 1 percent of all residents.

There are two types of HIV virus, one of them got into the body of the hunter in Central Africa from chimpanzees (HIV-1, more aggressive virus), the second in the result of the butchering of carcasses of monkeys (HIV-2). As earlier told TASS Alexander Semenov, after gaining the African countries became independent, some of them sent students to study in Europe and America, some in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and it so happened that in Europe and America got one type of the virus, less aggressive, and in the USSR and Eastern Europe – a different, more aggressive.

Once in the human body, the HIV virus, which is 60 times smaller than red blood cells, and only visible in an electron microscope, creates 10 billion copies and mutates very quickly – every 10-millionth copy this mutation. Variability of the HIV virus and its ability to integrate into the structure of human DNA makes the task of finding a cure for HIV is extremely complex, but research on vaccine development is underway the St. Petersburg biomedical center led by Professor of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University Peter the Great Andrei Kozlov at the expense of the Ministry of industry and trade of the Russian Federation.

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