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New Technique Makes Cells Resistant To HIV

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California have successfully found a way to tether HIV-fighting antibodies to immune cells, creating a cell population resistant to the virus. Undergoing experiments in laboratories the resistant cells replaced diseased cells and stopped the spread of infection. In doing so it provides long-term protection.

How Is This Approach Different?

  • Currently on the market are drugs that control the HIV infection but they do not eliminate the virus.
  • Other therapies have a low-density concentration of antibodies float around in the bloodstream.
  • In the new Technique the antibodies grip onto the cell’s surface, blocking the virus from accessing a crucial cell receptor and replicating.

The Testing:

  • Testing their new technique against a rhinovirus they used a lentivirus to deliver a new gene that instructed cells to synthesize antibodies that bind with the cell receptor the rhinovirus needs.
  • Scientists then delivered a new gene to cultured human cells.
    • The gene then instructed cells to synthesize antibodies that bind to the human cell receptor.
    • With antibodies not controlling that site the viruses cannot enter and spread further infection.
  • The finished product was a combined mixture of engineered and unengineered cells.
  • Researchers then added rhinovirus to this cell population and what happened was very impressive.
    • The vast majority of cells died in about two days.
    • In dishes with only unengineered cells, the population never recovered.
    • There was an initial die-off in the mixed engineered/unengineered populations, too, but their numbers quickly bounced back.
    • After 125 hours, these cell populations were back up to around the same levels as cells in an undiseased control group.

This success of the rhinovirus testing led researchers to test the same technique against HIV.

  • Scientists tested antibodies that could potentially protect this receptor on the very immune cells normally killed by HIV and like the rhinovirus experiment, it worked!
    • After introducing cells to the virus, the researchers ended up with an HIV-resistant population.
    • The antibodies recognized the CD4 binding site, blocking HIV from getting to the receptor.
    • Even further scientists confirmed that these tethered antibodies blocked HIV more effectively than free-floating.

Although one person has been cured, there’s still no cure for HIV. Since the genesis of the epidemic, it is estimated that 35 million people have died of the virus.


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