Scientists Look to Gene Therapy as Way to Boost Immune System Response to HIV

The Los Angeles Times reports on the recent efforts of scientists to use gene therapy to strengthen the ability of patients living with HIV to fight off the HIV virus. The article examines an ongoing project by a team of researchers in California who have developed a method of cutting "the crucial gene, CCR5, that normally lets HIV into the key immune cells it destroys" out of bone marrow stem cells. Without the gene, researchers believe that patients will be better prepared to fight off HIV.

"They tested the method using so-called humanized mice -- ones engineered to have a human immune system ... When stem cells were treated with the molecular scissors before being injected into mice, the resulting immune system lacked CCR5, exactly as the scientists had hoped," the newspaper writes. As the researchers hypothesized, the mice "fought off the virus." With $14.5 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the team of scientists is "working toward bringing the technique to clinical trials within four years," the newspaper writes. The article includes comments by scientists involved with the project and others exploring gene therapy in HIV/AIDS research (Bernstein, 8/21).

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