A new approach to treating AIDS was discovered by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).
Scientists have found a way to stick HIV-fighting antibodies to immune cells, which may foster a cell population resistant to the virus.
The experiments under lab conditions show resistant cells can quickly replace diseased cells under lab conditions, which shows the potential to cure a person with HIV, according to TSRI.
"This protection would be long term," said Jia Xie, senior staff scientist at TSRI and the first author of the study. It was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Richard Lerner, M.D., Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry at TSRI, led the study. The researchers will work with investigators at City of Hope's Center for Gene Therapy to investigate this new therapy as a potential treatment for HIV.
They will evaluate the treatment with safety tests as required by federal regulations.
"City of Hope currently has active clinical trials of gene therapy for AIDS using blood stem cell transplantation, and this experience will be applied to the task of bringing this discovery to the clinic," said John A. Zaia, M.D., director of the Center for Gene Therapy, in a statement.
"The ultimate goal will be the control of HIV in patients with AIDS without the need for other medications," said Zaia.
A significant new advantage with this treatment is that antibodies hang onto a cell's surface, blocking HIV from accessing a crucial cell receptor and spreading infection, according to TSRI.
“This is really a form of cellular vaccination,” said Lerner.
Antibodies recognize the CDR4 binding site, which allows them to block HIV from attacking a critical receptor in the cell. Scientists say this technique can produce an HIV-resistant population of cells.