Preliminary data from a team of scientists at the University of California Los Angeles indicate taht genetically engineered human stem cells might be used to suppress HIV. They have had positive results in tests with living mice.
Now for the technical stuff — the researchers cloned a molecule that controls “killer” T-cells, the white blood cells that recognize and kill HIV infected cells. Counting T-cells is an important way of measuring the progress of HIV in a patient. After cloning the molecule, it was injected with human blood stem cells inside of mice. The stem cells dramatically increased the production of T-cells, increasing their ability to fight HIV. The study also proved that engineered cells are able to develop and migrate to the organs to fight infection.
Scott G. Kitchen, an assistant professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, told the press, “We believe that this study lays the groundwork for the potential use of this type of approach in combating HIV infection in infected individuals, in hopes of eradicating the virus from the body. We believe that this is the first step in developing a more aggressive approach in correcting the defects in the human T-cell responses that allow HIV to persist in infected people.” Translation – this technique might finally be a way to kill the HIV virus without killing healthy cells.
It is still a long way from a cure, but each success narrows the quest.