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A novel approach may kill HIV infected cells

Harold Mandel's picture
Stop AIDs

There has been hysteria surrounding fears of being hit with HIV due to the incurable nature of this infection at this time. In view of this realization more aggressive efforts at prevention of HIV have been adhered to by many people. In the meantime research is continuing with hopes of finding a way to completely eradicate HIV.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has met with a great deal of success in reducing HIV levels in plasma to undetectable levels, reports PLOS/Pathogens. However, the effects of ART outside of the peripheral blood in regard to persistent virus production in tissue reservoirs has not been well understood. An understanding of the full dynamics of ART-induced reductions in viral RNA (vRNA) levels which are located throughout the body has been seen as important for the development of strategies to eradicate infectious HIV from patients.

Researchers are working on killing persisting HIV infected cells during ART

Researchers have realized that it is essential for a successful eradication therapy to develop a component which is capable of killing persisting HIV infected cells during ART. The researchers
therefore determined the in vivo efficacy of a targeted cytotoxic therapy to kill infected cells which persist in spite of long-term ART. In order to do this the researchers first characterized the impact of ART on HIV RNA levels in multiple organs of bone marrow-liver-thymus (BLT) humanized mice. They discovered that antiretroviral drug penetration and activity was adequate to reduce, but not to completely eliminate, HIV production in each tissue which was tested.

In order to achieve targeted cytotoxic killing of the persistent vRNA+ cells, the researchers treated BLT mice undergoing ART with an HIV-specific immunotoxin. It was observed that in comparison to
ART alone, this new agent profoundly depleted infected cells in a systemic way. These results offer evidence that targeted cytotoxic therapies can be effective components of HIV eradication strategies.

Although ART improves the quality of life for people infected with HIV, ART remains at this time a lifelong commitment because HIV persists during treatment even though it is suppressed below detection. When ART is stopped the HIV reappears. Researchers have been trying to develop new eradication therapies aimed at preventing virus rebound.

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The researchers have complemented ART with an immunotoxin which specifically kills HIV expressing cells while leaving other cells untouched. The results have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in persistent HIV throughout the body due to the killing of virus producing cells. This shows that it is possible to successfully target persistent HIV inside the body.

Researchers are working on a “guided missile” strategy to kill hidden HIV

This research has demonstrated a “guided missile” strategy to kill hidden HIV, reports the University of North Carolina (UNC), on Jan. 9, 2014. The newly developed combination therapy by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine is a potential new potent weapon against HIV. This therapy targets HIV-infected cells which standard therapies cannot kill.

For this research mouse models that have immune systems composed of human cells, were used by J. Victor Garcia, PhD, and colleagues. They discovered that an antibody which is combined with a bacterial toxin can penetrate HIV-infected cells and kill them even though standard antiretroviral therapy, which is also known as ART, had no effect. Failure to kill these persistent, HIV-infected
cells has undermined efforts to cure HIV.

The “kick-and-kill” strategy for HIV eradication holds promise

Garcia has said, “Our work provides evidence that HIV-infected cells can be tracked down and destroyed throughout the body.” The findings by Garcia have advanced the so-called “kick-and-kill” strategy for HIV eradication, meaning if the persistent virus is exposed, than it can be targeted and killed with a new therapy. The results show that it’s possible to attack and kill hidden HIV-infected cells which standard therapy can’t touch.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has generated a great deal of fear because it can cause the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and death. Although aggressive education about HIV has lead to an increased awareness of why it is so important to try to prevent this infection, the disease nevertheless remains a serious concern.

Therefore, while at this time health care professionals continue to help patients understand the vital necessity of being very careful about unsafe sex and exposure to contaminated blood in order to prevent HIV, I fully also support continued research aimed at a cure. The “guided missile” strategy aimed at killing hidden HIV appears to hold promise. ART and RIT is another novel approach which may prove to be successful in curing HIV, as I have reported on in a separate article for EmaxHealth.