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New Therapy Targets HIV Hidden in Cells

HIV which causes AIDS is difficult if not impossible to eliminate. The main reason being it conceals in human cells.

HIV can be attacked by many convectional drugs, but remnants masking in patient’s cells have the ability to re-emerge and cause the development of AIDS.

In reference to a publication in the January edition of PLOS Pathogens, J. Victor Garcia-Martinez and colleagues from the UNC School of Medicine demonstrated a new and effective approach to kill hidden HIV. Seemingly, their formula might be used in the future to cure AIDS in conjunction with the available treatments.

Presently, treatments consist of up to three drugs but they only inhibit the growth of HIV in a patient with AIDS. Without eliminating the HIV virus, they instead reduce its reproductive abilities.

Garcia-Martinez treatment has taken a new dimension. They have come up with a way such that the body detects and kills cells with hidden HIV.

“The immunotherapy that we used does kill the cells that are infected by HIV,” Garcia-Martinez said. “This is a key difference.”

Garcia-Martinez and colleagues according to the paper studied the “BLT mice” which have human immune systems. Through the use of these mice, researchers try to better understand the effects of new treatments in human cells and tissues.

Garcia-Martinez acknowledged that the BLT mouse is the most advanced and unique approach ever used for HIV studies.

The researchers tried the “kick and kill” approach to attack HIV in mice. They incorporated a compound that “kicks” the virus in to an “on” state in cells where it is hidden in an “off” state. Immediately the hidden virus turns on, the immune system detects it, killing the cell where it is hiding.

“This is a very important concept,” Garcia-Martinez said.

Garcia-Martinez said that some cells infected with HIV may fail to exhibit any virus referring to them as resting cells. These cells remain invisible to the immune system since they are dormant.

The paper indicated that Garcia-Martinez and his team demonstrated that their approach can reduce the hidden HIV by up to six times normal levels. They are hopeful to come up with treatments that can kill hidden HIV virus and averts AIDS development.

Noting that their main goal for intervention is to eventually eradicate the HIV infected cells, Garcia-Martinez is still unsure about how long it will take.

He also reckons that their design was not to demonstrate eradication but rather efficient killing of the HIV infected cells in human body. He also noted that their approach is beyond the roles played by the antiretroviral.

“Future experiments planned will address the issue of how long and under what circumstances can we completely eradicate the virus from the body” Garcia-Martinez said.

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