Scientists have found a way to create an HIV-resistant cell population which can quickly replace diseased cells, thereby potentially curing the disease in an infected person.
“This protection would be long-term,” said Jia Xie, senior staff scientist at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in the US and first author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers found a way to tether HIV-fighting antibodies to immune cells, thereby creating a cell population resistant to the virus.
Their experiments under lab conditions showed that these resistant cells can replace diseased cells.
The new technique offers a significant advantage over therapies where antibodies float freely in the bloodstream at a relatively low concentration, the researchers said.
Instead, antibodies in the new study hang on to a cell’s surface, blocking HIV from accessing a crucial cell receptor and spreading infection.
The researchers said they plan to collaborate with investigators at City of Hope — an independent research and treatment centre for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases in the US — to evaluate this new therapy in efficacy and safety tests, as required by federal regulations, prior to testing in patients.