The CD8+ memory stem T cell (TSCM) subset is associated with improved prognosis in chronic HIV-1 infection. HIV-1 infection leads to profound impairment of the immune system. TSCM constitute a recently identified lymphocyte subset with stem-cell like qualities including the ability to generate other memory T cell subtypes, and are therefore likely to play an important role in controlling viral infection. We investigated the relationship between the size of the CD8+ TSCM compartment and HIV-1 disease progression in a cohort of chronically infected individuals. Our results suggest that HAART restores a normal frequency of CD8+ TSCM and that the natural preservation of this subset in the setting of untreated HIV-1 infection is associated with improved viral control and immunity. Therefore, the CD8+ TSCM population may represent a correlate of protection in chronic HIV-1 infection that is directly relevant to the design of T cell-based vaccines, adoptive immunotherapy approaches or the pharmacologic induction of TSCM.
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