High levels of the protein HLA-C ― a crucial part of the immune system ― are associated with slower progression of HIV/AIDS, according to a study published online this week in Nature Genetics.
About 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, a serious disease of the immune system. Although many anti-retroviral medications have been developed that can extend the lives of HIV-positive individuals, none of these medications can cure the disease.
Previously, a genetic variant found near the HLA-C gene had been associated with expression levels of HLA-C mRNA as well as levels of HIV RNA. Mary Carrington and colleagues now extend these findings, showing that this genetic variant is also associated with HLA-C protein levels. Furthermore, the authors show that HIV-positive individuals with high levels of HLA-C progress more slowly to AIDS and that their HIV levels are significantly better controlled.