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HIV discoverer sees hope
By Kelly Marcella
One of the co-discoverers of the HIV virus visited the London Health Sciences Centre yesterday to present his alternative ideas on long-term HIV survival.
Western microbiology and immunology graduate students and the John P. Robarts Research Institute welcomed AIDS researcher Jay Levy as a distinguished speaker in their annual lecture series.
The topic, "AIDS: The importance of innate immunity in preventing HIV infection and disease progression," focused on some of the most recent developments in AIDS research.
A prominent researcher in the field of HIV since his co-discovery of the virus in 1983, Levy has continued his field research at the University of California San Francisco.
Levy stressed the importance of the immune system to long-term survivors of HIV. According to his research, certain blood-cell makeups allow the immune system to program responses to the HIV virus.
The presence of specific blood-cells, called CD8+ lymphocytes, can affect the progression of the HIV virus, he said. As a result, the replication of HIV infected cells is halted in the blood stream.
Some of the patients in Levy's study have kept the development of AIDS at bay for over 20 years without any type of drug related or traditional AIDS therapy, he added.
"This one cell can influence the programming that, in some individuals, works very well at preventing the progression of the disease," he said.
The ability of a cell to block a virus' effects without killing the cell is a new phenomenon, Levy said. "As to its importance, with more work, we'll be able find out further."
Conducting studies that work towards an AIDS vaccine and analysing the antiviral qualities of the CD8+ cell are two of the key projects in Levy's future.
Michael Litvak, a graduate student from the University of Toronto's Institute of Medical Studies, drove to London specifically to attend the lecture.
"I knew I had to be here because I'm fascinated with this field," Litvak said, adding U of T also receives speakers, but none of this distinction.
Karoline Hosiawa, a third-year PhD student in microbiology and immunology at Western, said Levy's lecture was beneficial to her own studies.
"There's no better way to become a well-rounded science student," she said.