May 11, 2012
US researchers are preparing to launch human clinical trials of an approach that uses genetically modified stem cells, master cells that can be altered to become any type of cell, to fight HIV.
Joseph Anderson, a stem cell researcher at the University of California-Davis' Institute for Regenerative Cures, and colleagues bred mice to have a human immune system, injected them with stem cells genetically modified with a trio of HIV-resistant genes, then infected them with HIV.
The mice were able to block HIV infection and maintain normal immune systems, "even though the virus was still there," Anderson said. "We were able to still detect virus that was replicating inside of the mice. However, because we put in genetically modified stem cells, the resistant immune cells were able to maintain a normal immune cell's level and maintain a functional immune system."
The goal would be "to maintain a normal human immune system in patients that have HIV infection. Hopefully, they'll be able to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs that they normally take, because the genetically resistant stem cells will be able to fight off the virus in the body," Anderson said.
[PNU editor's note: The full report, "Generation of an HIV-1-Resistant Immune System with CD34+ Hematopoietic Stem Cells Transduced with a Triple-Combination Anti-HIV Lentiviral Vector," was published in the Journal of Virology (2012;86(10):5719-5729).]
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