The AIDS-causing virus was eradicated in 4 out 10 laboratory mice by a promising strategy
Researchers have refined a ‘kick and kill’ approach targeting dormant HIV particles by tricking them out of infected cells into the open to be attacked by the body’s natural killer cells, offering hope for a potential cure.
This study involved laboratory tests of 10 HIV-infected mice. UCLA researchers reported that the AIDS virus could be eliminated completely in around 40% of patients.
It was a continuation of an approach developed in 2017
This team used a synthetic drug called SUW133 in order to activate the dormant HIV virus in infected animals. Stanford University developed the chemical compound that tricks viral cells to reveal themselves.
The study revealed that approximately 25% of HIV-infected cells had died in 24 hours. Scientists sought to make the process more efficient by injecting healthy, natural killer cells into mice. This combination was more efficient than either injecting the agent or killing cells alone.
“These findings show proof-of-concept for a therapeutic strategy to potentially eliminate HIV from the body, a task that had been nearly insurmountable for many years,” Jocelyn Kim, the study’s lead author, said, adding that they open a “new paradigm for a possible HIV cure in the future.”
The team’s goal is now to eliminate 100% of HIV from the infected mice subjects.
Kim said that the research will then move toward “preclinical studies in non-human primates” with the “ultimate goal” of human testing.
The approach may be able to eliminate the dependence on long-term anti-retroviral medication (ARV) treatments for HIV patients if it is proven safe in humans. Those drugs do not kill the virus, but work to inhibit it at stages in its ‘life cycle’ – for instance, after it infiltrates a host cell or when it begins to replicate itself.
Although ARVs suppress the virus to nearly undetectable levels, it lies dormant in the body’s CD4+ T cells, which are usually part of a healthy immune system response. When the ARV treatment stops, HIV continues its spread.
UN estimates that HIV is currently infecting around 38 million people across the globe.
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