Past research has indicated that white blood cells with lower-than-normal levels of cholesterol are unable to be infected by HIV. Knowing that the protective coat that surrounds an HIV virion also happens to contain cholesterol, a team at Johns Hopkins decided to explore the inverse of what was previously known: they wanted to see if altering the amount of cholesterol in an HIV virion would then prevent it from being able to infect host cells.
Normally, HIV infections produce an overwhelming immune response that leads to system shut down. HIV cells with altered levels of cholesteral initiated a normal immune response, however, allowing the immune system to more effectively detect and combat HIV.
This discovery probably can’t provide much in terms of a solution for people whose immune systems are already dealing with the effects of HIV, but, as the article concludes, it could help people who are newly infected with HIV better detect and successfully fight the virus before it wreaks havoc on their immune system. Three cheers for prevention efforts.