Infectious Diseases

March 18, 2021

HIV, diabetes and immune cells in fat

In HIV-positive individuals with diabetes, immune cells in fat are more proinflammatory and cytotoxic and may represent a therapeutic target for diabetes.

Individuals with HIV now survive for decades with antiretroviral therapy, but they face an increasing burden of metabolic diseases, including diabetes. A latent viral presence in adipose tissue shifts the types of immune cells in fat, suggesting that an altered immune environment may contribute to metabolic dysregulation. 

Celestine Wanjalla, MD, PhD, John Koethe, MD, and colleagues used multiple techniques to profile adipose tissue CD4+ T cells in HIV-positive persons with and without diabetes and in a control group of HIV-negative diabetics. 

They found that HIV-positive diabetics have CD4+ T cells with a specific set of cell surface markers that differ from HIV-positive non-diabetics and HIV-negative diabetics, and that the T cells have a proinflammatory and cytotoxic RNA signature. The findings were published in Cell Reports Medicine. 

Further studies could suggest new approaches for modulating immune system cells in fat to reduce diabetes in people with and without HIV, the authors note.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants DK112262, DK108352, HL143956, RR024975, AI007474, AI110527), Leducq Foundation and American Heart Association.