01 April 2021

And from HIV too!

Diabetes Medicine against HIV

Kirill Stasevich, Science and Life (nkj.ru )

With type 2 diabetes, our cells lose sensitivity to insulin. It should have forced the cells to absorb glucose from the blood, but since they do not feel insulin signals, then glucose remains in the blood, and its level becomes unacceptably high. There are various drugs that help restore cellular sensitivity to insulin signals, and metformin is one of the most well–known.

But recently, other beneficial effects have been found in metformin. For example, it helps the cell to get rid of dangerous molecular debris that appeared due to radiation. Metformin also, together with the male steroid hormone, rejuvenates the thymus, an important immune gland necessary for the maturation of lymphocytes. Finally, as researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill write in Nature Immunology (Guo et al., Multi-omics analyzes reveal that HIV-1 alters CD4+ T cell immunometabolism to fuel virus replication), metformin helps immune cells cope with HIV infection.

When the virus enters the T cells, it causes them to receive more energy - because the virus itself needs energy to reproduce. Obviously, if you slow down the energy exchange in the cell, then the virus will become uncomfortable in it. The researchers were looking for what substance can be used here, and it turned out that metformin is quite suitable here.

Experiments were performed on human cells, as well as on special mice that carried human immune cells (the immunity of mice was modified so as not to start an immune reaction in response to human proteins). Both in human cells and in mice with human cells, metformin suppressed the reproduction of HIV.

The researchers also analyzed medical statistics on patients with HIV. Some of them developed diabetes after contracting HIV and started taking metformin. It turned out that if a patient with HIV takes metformin, the level of the virus in the blood will be on average 33% lower than that of someone who does not take metformin.

HIV can now be effectively contained with antiretroviral drugs. However, they cannot completely get rid of HIV: the virus is able to "fall asleep" in the cell, becoming invulnerable to drugs, and, waking up from time to time, it manages to cause some damage to immunity. In addition, antivirus tools are fraught with side effects. Metformin would be a good help here: it is unlikely that it will be possible to finally expel the virus from the body, but with it, antiretroviral therapy can become much more effective. In favor of metformin, it is also said that this is not an experimental drug – it has been tested in clinical studies for a long time, and moreover is relatively cheap.

This is not the first time when a seemingly familiar medicine suddenly discovers new useful properties. About the same HIV, we wrote not so long ago that the antibiotic concanamycin A prevents the virus from hiding from immunity.

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