Researchers in Australia have identified a hormone that suppresses the body’s own immune system in protracted illness. This mechanism protects the body from self inflicted damage and cancer. The hormone is IL-7 and the gene is SOCS-3. By turning off the SOCS-3 gene in mice, they were able to fight off an HIV infection.
The next step towards developing a treatment for HIV is to design a drug that can target the SOCS-3 gene temporarily. The potential side effects to this treatment are obvious though. The body normally moderates the immune system to prevent damage, so if we take control and allow the immune system to run at full throttle, unintended harm may result.
However, the ability to unleash our own immune systems in fighting disease has many applications. Many other chronic diseases could be cured in the same manner if a successful drug can be developed.