Turning Stem Cells into a Powerful Weapon Against AIDS

In an exciting medical breakthrough, UCLA scientists say they have found a way to turn stem cells into cells that fight HIV. The genetically engineered cells have proven to be effective in suppressing the virus in animals.

By Angie Crouch and Julie Brayton
|  Friday, Apr 13, 2012  |  Updated 3:24 PM PDT
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Turning Stem Cells into a Powerful Weapon Against AIDS

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Turning Stem Cells into a Powerful Weapon Against AIDS

In an exciting medical breakthrough, UCLA scientists say they have found a way to turn stem cells into cells that fight HIV. The genetically engineered cells have proven to be effective in suppressing the virus in animals.
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Researchers say the groundbreaking discovery they made at UCLA could one day potentially lead to a cure for Aids, Cancer, and other deadly viruses.

They figured out how to engineer stem cells taken from adult blood, and turn them into immune cells that attack and kill the HIV virus.

The history making breakthrough even surprised them.

"We knew that the results were coming down the pike," says UCLA researcher, Dr. Jerome Zack. "When they finally came out we looked and went, that's pretty good."

So far the technique has been successful in attacking HIV in hundreds of lab mice.

"We haven't fully developed the technology to clear them of HIV, but they are significantly suppressed in the amount of virus that’s replicating," says researcher Dr. Scott Kitchen.

Researchers say human clinical trials are the next step.

If those prove successful, the technique could be available to patients in about ten years.

Jim Chud of West Hollywood has been living with HIV for 35 years, and takes more than 20 pills a day just to stay alive.

The recent news is a ray of hope that he's long been dreaming of.

"I think it's great," says Chud. "If I had a chance, I'd volunteer for that kind of study in a heartbeat. I think it should give anybody that's newly infected a lot of hope."

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