Stem-cell work closes a door to AIDS virus

July 2, 2010

Lab work on mice has opened up a novel way of closing a gateway to the AIDS virus, according to a study published on Friday.

The doorway in question is called CCR5, a protein that helps the (HIV) penetrate a cell, its first step before hijacking the cellular machinery and reproducing itself.

Around a decade ago, scientists discovered that people who had a tiny gap in the for making CCR5 were surprisingly resistant to and took more time to progress to .

This , known as CCR5 delta 32, results in smaller CCR5 proteins, which prevents most strains of HIV from infecting the cell.

Testing a theory, scientists in the United States took immature haematopoietic cells -- which make immune and -- from mice.

They modified some of the cells, using a brand-new enzyme "cutter" to delete the famous CCR delta 32 section.

As a result, when these cells matured and divided, they lacked the key code for making normal CCR5.

The modified cells were reinjected back into the rodents, which were then exposed to HIV. Twelve weeks after infection, the animals had recovered their stock of immune T-cells and their levels of HIV were very low.

But "control" mice that had not received the modified cells were highly infected and their immune systems weak.

If the approach is found to be safe and effective on humans, it opens the way to creating a long-term generation of HIV-resistant T-cells in the body -- in other words, a patient could suppress HIV without taking powerful .

The experiment headed by Paula Cannon of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, is the third avenue that has opened up for CCR5 investigators .

Drugs that inhibit CCR5 are already being licensed as "salvage" therapy for patients whose immune systems have been crippled by HIV.

Doctors are also testing in trials on volunteers a CCR delta 32 technique, but using T-cells as opposed to stem cells.

Around two million people died from AIDS in 2008, and 33.4 million were living with HIV, according to UN figures published last November.

The International AIDS Conference, an event held once every two years, takes place in Vienna from July 18-23.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers use CRISPR to accelerate search for HIV cure

October 25, 2016

Researchers at UC San Francisco and the academically affiliated Gladstone Institutes have used a newly developed gene-editing system to find gene mutations that make human immune cells resistant to HIV infection.

Study unlocks secret of common HIV strain

October 13, 2016

A discovery that the most common variant of the HIV virus is also the "wimpiest" will help doctors better treat millions of individuals around the world suffering from the deadly disease, according to one of the world's leading ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 02, 2010

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.