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HIV Cure Update: Genetically Engineered Proteins Could Remove 85 Percent of HIV-Infected Cells in Laboratory Setting

Jul 14, 2016 06:24 AM EDT
A new study confirmed the pptency of the new ImmTAV in combination with successful antiretroviral therapy and donated CD8+ T-cells in removing up to 85 percent of HIV-infected cells. (Photo : William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

A new study from the University of Oxford confirmed the efficacy of a treatment develop by a British company in removing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in its hiding place.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Therapy, was conducted by the researchers from University of Oxford, in partnership in Oxfordshire-based biotechnology company Immunocore Ltd, to investigate the potency of the novel engineered immune-mobilizing T cell receptors-based drugs ('ImmTAVs') in clearing HIV infected cells.

ImmTAV is two-headed proteins that can help the immune system kill HIV-infected cells. A genetically engineered T-cell receptor that can detect HIV proteins in an infected cell even at low levels can be found in one of its end. On the other end is an antibody that binds to CD3 that kills the virus-infected cells.

For the study, the researchers draw cells from HIV patients who had successful retroviral therapy and added ImmTAV. The researchers noted that the addition of the ImmTAV made the CD8+ T-cells kill the latently infected CD4+ T-cells. Furthermore, adding CD8+ T-cells from healthy donors to ImmTAV created a response that removed up to 85 percent of the infected cells. However, CD8+ T-cells from healthy donor by itself can't generate any effect, confirming the essential role of the ImmTAV.

"ImmTAVs are likely to be one part of an HIV eradication strategy, rather than a complete cure. That strategy could comprise existing anti-retrovirals, ImmTAV and agents that address the weaknesses in HIV patients' CD8+ T-cells. However, these positive results are cause for optimism," explained Lucy Dorrel, a professor at University of Oxford and lead author of the study, in a statement.

Additionally, the researchers tried to incorporate ImmTAV to the kick and kill method in fighting HIV infection. During this method, latent dormant HIV cells were reawakened using latency-reversing agents. Once the virus is confirmed to be active, the ImmTAV will be added to kill the virus. Among the five cases the researchers did, four of which completely stopped the re-infection of the virus.

However, researchers noted that their results were based on laboratory settings. Human trials are still needed to determine if the result of the laboratory models replicate in humans.

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