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Top 10 international science stories of 2020

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 20, 2021
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# A 'shocking' step toward a potential HIV cure

A health worker conducts a blood test during a counselling and HIV test camp, organized by the Tripura State AIDS Control society in Agartala, the capital city of India's northeastern state of Tripura, on Dec. 14, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

"Shock and kill" is a leading research strategy for eliminating HIV from the body, and refers to activating the dormant virus from within immune cells where it hides, and then eliminating it. One obstacle so far has been finding a safe way to "wake up" the virus.

In January 2020, researchers reported in two complementary Nature papers that they have come closer to that goal. The papers rely on studies involving two animal models of HIV infection. Despite taking different approaches, the studies both yielded promising results, disrupting viral latency at levels not seen before.

In simple terms, the virus was brought out of its hiding places, even in the presence of antiretroviral drugs that had prevented it from replicating for several months.

The findings do not yet represent a cure, while follow-up studies in animals, as well as clinical trials in humans, are still needed and planned. However, the results represent an important advance as they could potentially be combined with other approaches directed against the virus.

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