Researchers and scientists from the staff of Stanford University School of Medicine have created cells resistant to HIV. They published their findings in the journal Molecular Therapy. They have genetically engineered specific immune cells to resist HIV and could possibly protect patients from AIDS.
This new method is also capable of replacing the current drug treatment for AIDS patients.
How Cells Become Resistant to HIV
HIV works by entering a person’s T-cells and eventually killing them, which causes the immune system to collapse. Technically, HIV enters T-cells through two genes that are receptive to the virus.
These receptive genes are called CCR5 and CXCR4. The current drugs to fight HIV target these receptor genes. This new method might replace a percentage of an individual’s T-cells with the modified HIV resistant cells.
Theoretically, the cells that are sensitive to HIV would die off; the resistant cells would reproduce and would create an immune system built up entirely of resistant HIV cells. In this case, the current medications prescribed to combat HIV would no longer be necessary, since this new method could modify genes in such a way that they could naturally immune HIV.
Treating AIDS has been very challenging because the virus continues to mutate, leaving patients to take a variety of different drugs, known as active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
Steps Toward Future HIV Gene Therapy
There are some drawbacks of this new scientific discovery, however. This new method requires the nucleus of the T-cell to break in one spot. If the nucleus were to break in other locations, cells could deviate or become cancerous. In addition, the cells may not grow, or may not endure the genetic change.
So far, humans have not been tested using this new method. More lab work and animal testing is required.
Scientists hope for human clinical trials to begin in approximately five years. Nonetheless, this discovery is a scientific breakthrough and a positive step forward in gene therapy.
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