Scientists Create Stem Cells Immune to HIV

Scientists have engineered HIV-immune stem cells that can carry T cells to different organs in the body, laying the groundwork for one day eliminating the virus from infected patients. 

What's the Latest Development?

By engineering stem cells to be immune to HIV, scientists at UCLA have developed a method for targeting and suppressing cells in the body that contain HIV proteins. The researchers took "the 'killer' T cells that help fight infection from an HIV-infected individual and identified the molecule known as the T cell receptor, which guides the T cell in recognizing and killing HIV-infected cells." After injecting these modified stem cells into a human thalamus tissue that had been implanted in mice, they watched the number of T cells increase and the number of HIV-infected cells decrease. 

What's the Big Idea?

The results of the study indicate that T cells, once they are couched in modified stem cells, are capable of migrating across organs to help eradicate HIV from different parts of 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," said lead investigator Scott Kitchen, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at UCLA. The research may lay the groundwork for entirely eradicating the virus from the body. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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