A single gene of the AIDS virus gives mice a skin disease that resembles an AIDS-related cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, suggesting the virus may help cause Kaposi’s in AIDS patients, a study says. The work may help in developing new therapies, said Gilbert Jay of the National Cancer Institute.
Jay reported on the research in the British journal Nature. The study involved scientists from the institute and the University of California at Davis.
Kaposi’s sarcoma is a generally uncommon cancer that appears with unusual frequency in victims of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, with some 95% of AIDS-related cases among homosexual men.
The new work focused on the “tat” gene of the virus, which normally switches on other viral genes to speed reproduction. Researchers injected fertilized mouse eggs with the gene plus the genetic switch that normally activates it. The eggs were then implanted in female mice. Many of the resulting newborns carried the gene in every cell of their bodies. But it appeared to be active only in skin cells.
Thirty-three of 37 male mice with the gene developed patches of extensive cell proliferation in the skin, and about 15% of the male mice developed skin tumors, researchers said.