Scientists have found out that langerin, a protein produced by the human genitalia may have contained the spread of HIV infection. New transmission can be brought under control by augmenting the activity of langerin. This research was conducted by Teunis Geijtenbeek and his team at Vrije University Medical Center in Amsterdam which was published in March 4 online issue of Nature Medicine.
Langerin is a protein produced by langerhans cells which form a web like network in skin and mucosa. Viruses in the surrounding area has been hunted by langerin cells preventing infection. This sort of action by the langerin can be attributed to the relative inefficiency in the spread of HIV infection when compared with the 100% infection in Human Papilloma Virus which causes cervical cancer.
The Dutch study was conducted in the laboratory using langerhans cells from 13 human donors. According to this study, the HIV uses langerhans cells to carry itself to the T cells which are present in the lymph. It has always been believed that HIV infects langerhans cells. But the presence of the protein langerin is found to have a blockading effect on HIV.
According to Geijtenbeek, langerhans cells act more like a virus vacuum cleaner which captures HIV 1 and destroys them. HIV infection occurs when there is an increased level of HIV or when the langerin activity is weak. This clearly explains why HIV is very difficult to contract.
Geijtenbeek said this research opens up the possibilities of increasing langerin activity to combat HIV transmissions. The functioning of langerin could be attributed to the extent of HIV infection. A weak langerin is more vulnerable to HIV infection and vice versa. He also felt that this finding could influence the discovery of a microbicide which will give protective cover to women against HIV infection.