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REMOVING a chemical "invisibility cloak" that makes HIV-infected cells look healthy might be the key to ridding people of the virus.
Human cells protect themselves against immune attack by displaying proteins on their surface that mark them as "self". When the immune system detects these proteins, it holds back. One way HIV evades immune attack is by hijacking one of these proteins - CD59 - and using it to disguise itself and the cells it infects as healthy, human cells.
This cloak doesn't kick in directly following HIV infection. First, antigens on HIV's surface prompt the immune system to pump out vast quantities of anti-HIV antibodies, which bind to the antigen and even trigger the destruction of some HIV. But once the infection is established, the CD59 cloak prevents further immune attack on the viral particles and infected cells, which also display the antigen (see diagram, right). "HIV patients have a very strong antibody response, but unfortunately it doesn't work," says Qigui Yu of the Indiana University School of Medicine in