Sunday, October 16, 2011

HIV Gene Therapy Results Promising

Two tests—one on the U.S. East Coast and one on the West Coast—of a novel treatment that could free HIV-infected people from taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs have produced promising preliminary results, researchers reported last week at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago, Illinois. The treatment aims to make the immune system resistant to HIV by crippling a receptor, known as CCR5, on T cells the virus uses during the infection process. The gene therapy modifies the T cells in the laboratory and then reinfuses them into the patients. One of the 15 HIV-infected people who received the gene therapy and stopped taking ARVs had a few weeks later, the virus declined to undetectable levels. Other evidence showed that the altered cells persisted for more than 6 months. “This is a very small experiment,… [but] it shows that there’s a correlation between antiviral activity and the proportion of modifi ed cells,” says Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease clinician at the University of Pennsylvania headed the East Coast Study. “It shows a path forward.”



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