What do cats and monkeys have in common? Okay, yes, the cute factor is obvious – kittens and baby monkeys do easily rival each other for being the most adorable mammals on the planet. However, I’m talking about a similarity that isn’t played out among GIFs or your friend’s facebook wall – HIV.
On our breaks here at CAP, many of us surf the interwebs to find new and interesting stuff about HIV and AIDS research, and last week I was sent a couple of articles with the following titles of “Cats Could Lead the Way to an HIV Vaccine” and “5 Interesting Facts How Cats and Monkeys May Help Unlock Functional HIV Cure or Vaccine.”
Yes, these are real articles. They are real articles that are based off scientific research, despite the fact that one was written by a certified cat lady, and the other article has a link to a “Shocking New Testosterone Booster” at the bottom of its page. My advice would be to not get deterred by manly bylines and unique author bios, but to actually read each of the articles (I have posted the links at the bottom of the page so that you don’t have to worry about possible awkward internet searches).
Nonetheless, if reading through scientific articles isn’t your thing at the moment, no worries; I’ll give you the rundown here and provide you with an answer to the question and title of this blog (I will not, however, give you ten dollars. It’s not like you actually knew the answer). Here goes nothing.
Basically, despite the fact that HIV is a virus that only affects humans, it has sister viruses; these sister viruses, known as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) affect primates and cats in the same way that HIV affects humans.
Okay, so different species can get forms of HIV. Where’s the significance in that?
The significance comes from the research – a five year study done on monkeys by OHSU (shout out to Portland!) revealed that after giving monkeys a new drug that only gives 50% protection against SIV, half the monkeys used in the study were able to clear out their version of the HIV virus completely. This new drug is pretty groundbreaking (it was talked about at the annual AIDS Vaccine Conference this year), and will probably continue to undergo studies before being tested on humans.
Secondly, researchers from the University of Florida and the University of California San Francisco discovered that the protein found in the FIV produces an immune response in the blood of HIV positive people. Researchers are now working on developing a T-cell based vaccine for HIV that would potentially induce the body to produce proteins that could kill the HIV-infected cells; this would be achieved because the T-cell based vaccine would activate an immune response against the FIV – the immune response produces proteins!
It’s okay if you had to read that twice/look it up on the internet, I did too.
Basically, the technology for fighting HIV is on the rise and its army is composed of cats and monkeys with some help from doctors and other medical institutions. We are learning more and more about HIV every day, and it is these experiments (as crazy as they sound) that are real steps of progress to figuring out how to stop the virus and find its cure.
So, next time you’re at the zoo, thank the chimps, and next time you find yourself next to a cat, give it cat nip. We owe them quite a lot for contributing to the fight against HIV.