SNPwatch gives you the latest news about research linking various traits and conditions to individual genetic variations. These studies are exciting because they offer a glimpse into how genetics may affect our bodies and health; but in most cases, more work is needed before this research can provide information of value to individuals. For that reason it is important to remember that like all information we provide, the studies we describe in SNPwatch are for research and educational purposes only. SNPwatch is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice; you should always seek the advice of your physician or other appropriate healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of any disease or other medical condition.
AIDS used to be considered a male-specific health problem — but now, the majority of its victims are female.
Those numbers aside, some studies have shown that certain females take much longer than males to progress to AIDS after being infected with HIV. Now, researchers have now found a mechanism that might explain this difference.
A two-stage study by Siddiqui et al. identified a genetic variant on the X chromosome that may slow progression from HIV-1 to AIDS in women. The study analyzed both primates and humans, demonstrating that genetic association findings can successfully translate across species, even over an evolutionary distance of 25 million years.
The researchers first analyzed 136 rhesus monkeys infected with SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus). They found a common genetic marker on the X chromosome among those monkeys that progressed slowly to AIDS-related disease. Researchers then studied 303 HIV-infected humans and found an analogous marker on the X chromosome —the SNP rs5968255 — that may affect progression to AIDS in human females.
The results, published in the online version of The American Journal of Human Genetics, indicate that in humans, females with one copy of the C version of rs5968255 progressed to AIDS more slowly than either females with TT or males with a C or T. (Note that females have two X chromosomes, while males only have one.)
Females with one copy of the C version of the SNP took an average of eight years to progress from HIV infection to AIDS, nearly four times less than females with no copies or males. Women with two copies of C are so rare that none were found in the study.
The CT genotype of rs5968255 is more frequent among Asians than Europeans or Africans, suggesting that future research may find that HIV-1 positive Asian females have a slower progression to AIDS. Future studies may also be able to use this X chromosomal variant as a clue toward new drug development for both genders.