Antiviral stem cell squad dispatched to fight deadly HIV

Building on research work undertaken in Germany, City of Hope investigators near LA have used modified stem cells loaded with gene sequences to fight off HIV. And the scientists in the study say that the work points to a possible cure for the dread virus, which has killed millions of people around the world.

Researchers opted for three different gene sequences, loading them into the blood-forming stem cells which had been extracted from patients, modified with a harmless viral vector and then injected back into the patient after their bone marrow and blood system had been eliminated, reports Bloomberg. The combination approach is designed to block viruses from entering cells, inhibit a protein the virus needs to replicate and then scramble the "genetic machinery" the virus needs to thrive.

"One of the problems with antiviral therapy is that it has almost led to the perception that HIV is cured and that's not true," UC Berkeley's David Schaffer tells Bloomberg. "If you could develop a therapy to make HIV-proof blood cells, then you could create a true cure for HIV. This is a very promising clinical trial that takes us in that direction."

The researchers want to see if they can replicate the results of a German doctor, who infused an HIV patient with stem cells extracted from a person with the rare genetic profile needed to remain immune to the virus. The HIV patient was able to stop taking the anti-viral cocktail and has been virus-free for three years.

- here's the article from Bloomberg

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