HIV and AIDS


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The Effects of HIV Mutations on the Immune System is deadly.


     HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is classified as a RNA Retrovirus. A retrovirus uses RNA templates to produce DNA. For example, within the core of HIV is a double molecule of ribonucleic acid, RNA. When the virus invades a cell, this genetic material is replicated in the form of DNA. But, in order to do so, HIV must first be able to produce a particular Enzyme that can construct a DNA molecule using an RNA template. This enzyme, Called RNA-directed DNA polymerase, is also referred to as reverse Transcriptase because it reverses the normal cellular process of Transcription. The DNA molecules produced by reverse transcription are then Inserted into the genetic material of the host cell, where they are Co-replicated with the host's chromosomes; they are thereby distributed to All daughter cells during subsequent cell divisions. Then in one or more of these daughter cells, the virus produces RNA copies of its genetic material. These new HIV clones become covered with protein coats and leave the cell to find other host cells where they can repeat the life cycle.
     The Body Fights Back As viruses begin to invade the body, a few are consumed by macrophages, which seize their antigens and display them on their own surfaces. Among millions of helper T cells circulating in the bloodstream, a select few are programmed to read that antigen. Binding the macrophage, the T cell becomes activated. Once activated, helper T cells begin to multiply. They then stimulate the multiplication of those few killer T cells and B cells that are sensitive to the invading viruses. As the number of B cells increases, helper T cells signal them to start producing antibodies. Meanwhile, some of the viruses have entered cells of the body - the only place they are able to replicate. Killer T cells will sacrifice these cells by chemically puncturing their membranes, letting the contents spill out, thus disrupting the viral replication cycle. Antibodies then neutralize the viruses by binding directly to their surfaces, preventing them from attacking other cells. Additionally, they precipitate chemical reactions that actually destroy the infected cells. As the infection is contained, suppresser T cells halt the entire range of immune responses, preventing them from spiraling out of control. Memory T and B cells are left in the blood and lymphatic system, ready to move quickly should the same virus once again invade the body.

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     HIV’s Life Cycle is in the initial stage of HIV infection, the virus colonizes helper T cells, specifically CD4+ cells, and macrophages, while replicating itself relatively unnoticed. As the amount of the virus soars, the number of helper cells falls; macrophages die as well. The infected T cells perish as thousands of new viral particles erupt from the cell membrane. Soon, though, cytotoxic T And B-lymphocytes kill many virus-infected cells and viral particles. These Effects limit viral growth and allow the body an opportunity to temporarily
Restore its supply of helper cells to almost normal concentrations. It is at
This time the virus enters its second stage. Throughout this second phase the immune system functions well, and the net Concentration of measurable virus remains relatively low. But after a period of time, the viral level rises gradually, in parallel with a decline in the Helper population. These helper T and B lymphocytes are not lost because the Body’s ability to produce new helper cells is impaired, but because the virus And cytotoxic cells are destroying them. This idea that HIV is not just Evading the immune system but attacking and disabling it is what Distinguishes HIV from other retroviruses.
     Evolutionary Theory The evolutionary theory states that chance mutation in the genetic material of an individual organism sometimes yields a trait that gives the organism a Survival advantage. That is, the affected individual is better able than its Peers to overcome obstacles to survival and is also better able to reproduce Prolifically. As time goes by, offspring that shares the same trait become most abundant in the population, out competing other members until another Individual acquires a more adaptive trait or until environmental conditions Change in a way that favors different characteristics. The pressures exerted by the environment, then, determine which traits are selected for spread in a Population.
     Nowak’s Theory on HIV Survival is based on When he considered HIV’s life cycle it seemed evident that the microbe
Was particularly well suited to evolve away from any pressures it confronted
For example, its Genetic makeup changes constantly, a high mutation rate increases the Probability that some genetic change will give rise to an advantageous trait. This great genetic variability stems from a property of the viral enzyme reverse transcriptase. As stated above, in a cell, HIV uses reverse Transcriptase to copy its RNA genome into double-strand DNA. The virus Mutates rapidly during this process because reverse transcriptase is rather Error prone. It has been estimated that each time the enzyme copies RNA into DNA, the new DNA on average differs from that of the previous generation in one site. This pattern makes HIV one of the most variable viruses known. HIV’s high replication rate further increases the odds that a mutation Useful to the virus will arise. To fully appreciate the extent of HIV Multiplication, look at the numbers published on it; a billion new viral Particles are produced in an infected patient each day, and in the absence of Immune activity, the viral population would on average double every two Days. With the knowledge of HIV’s great evolutionary potential in mind, Nowak and His colleagues conceived a scenario they thought could explain how the virus Resists complete eradication and thus causes AIDS, usually after a long time Span. Their proposal assumed that constant mutation in viral genes would lead to continuous production of viral variants able to evade the immune Defenses operating at any given time. Those variants would emerge when Genetic mutations led to changes in the structure of viral peptides Recognized by the immune system. Frequently such changes exert no effect on Immune activities, but sometimes they can cause a peptide to become invisible to the body’s defenses. The affected viral particles, bearing fewer Recognizable peptides, would then become more difficult for the immune system to detect.

     Using the theory that he had developed on the survival of HIV, along with the evolutionary theory, Nowak devised a model to simulate the dynamics and Growth of the virus. The equations that formed the heart of the model
Reflected features that Nowak and his colleagues thought were important in
The progression of HIV infection: the virus impairs immune function mainly
By causing the death of CD4+ helper T cells, and higher levels of virus
Result in more T cell death. Also, the virus continuously produces escape
Mutants that avoid to some degree the current immunologic attack, and these
Mutants spread in the viral population. After awhile, the immune system
Finds the mutants efficiently, causing their population to shrink.
The simulation managed to reproduce the typically long delay between
Infection by HIV and the eventual sharp rise in viral levels in the body. It
Also provided an explanation for why the cycle of escape and repression does
Not go on indefinitely but culminates in uncontrolled viral replication, the
Almost complete loss of the helper T cell population and the onset of AIDS.
After the immune system becomes more active, survival becomes more
Complicated for HIV. It is no longer enough to replicate freely; the virus
Also has to be able to ward off immune attacks. Now is when Nowak predicts
That selection pressure will produce increasing diversity in peptides
Recognized by immune forces. Once the defensive system has collapsed and is
No longer an obstacle to viral survival, the pressure to diversify
Evaporates. In patients with AIDS, we would again anticipate selection for
The fastest-growing variants and a decrease in viral diversity.
Long-term studies involving a small number of patients have confirmed some
Of the modeling predictions, these investigations, conducted by several
Researchers--including Andrew J. Leigh Brown of the University of Edinburgh,
Et al.--tracked the evolution of the so-called V3 segment of a protein in the
Outer envelop of HIV for several years. V3 is a major target for antibodies
And is highly variable. As the computer simulation predicted, viral samples
Obtained within a few weeks after patients become infected were alike in the
V3 region. But during subsequent years, the region diversified, thus causing
A rapid increase in the amount of V3 variants and a progressive decrease in
The model presented by Nowak is extremely difficult to verify with clinical
Tests alone, largely because the diversified interactions between the virus
And the immune system is impossible to monitor in detail. Consequently,
Nowak turned to a computer simulation in which an initially homogeneous viral
Population evolved in response to immunologic pressure. He reasoned that if
The mathematical model produced the known patterns of HIV progression, he
Could conclude the evolutionary scenario had some merit. To verify his
Model, he turned to the experiments done on the V3 protein segment in HIV.
These experiments demonstrated that the peptides were mutating and that
These mutations were leading to a decline in helper lymphocytes.



     Upon evaluation of this source, a problem is
Exposed, this being that because there was no experiment performed to
Substantiate this model; we have no idea if the modeling predictions are
True. Although there were previous non-directly related experiments that Nowak referred to rationalize his model there was never an experiment done solely based on the model. Because the V3 findings were in accord with the findings of Nowak’s model, we can assume that the Model has some merit. This absence of an experiment is what leads to the boundaries that one Encounter when experimenting with HIV mutations. These boundaries being that because HIV replicates and mutates non-linearly, it is impossible to Chronicle all its viral dynamics scrupulously. The lack of experimental data based on Nowak’s model along with the Inadequacy of experiments dealing with HIV mutations leads to the conclusion
That at present, there is no answer to this question.



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