In a significant breakthrough that could hasten an eventual HIV cure, a research team at UNMC has changed the chemical structure of an existing antiviral drug to facilitate it in reaching cells and tissues where HIV resides.
New Canadian guidelines recommend the use of new medications by HIV-negative people from high-risk populations both before and after exposure to the virus to prevent HIV infection.
A permanent cure for HIV infection remains elusive due to the virus’s ability to hide away in latent reservoirs. But now, in new research published in print May 3 in the journal Molecular Therapy, scientists at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) and the University of Pittsburgh show that they can excise HIV DNA from the genomes of living animals to eliminate further infection. They are the first to perform the feat in three different animal models, including a «humanized» model in which mice were transplanted with human immune cells and infected with the virus.
HIV cure research to date has focused on clearing the virus from T cells, a type of white blood cell that is an essential part of the immune system. Yet investigators in the division of infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have found the virus persists in HIV-infected macrophages.
French researchers have identified a marker that makes it possible to differentiate “dormant” HIV-infected cells from healthy cells. This discovery will make it possible to isolate and analyze reservoir cells which, by silently hosting the virus, are responsible for its persistence even among patients receiving antiviral treatment, whose viral load is undetectable. It offers new therapeutic strategies for targeting infected cells. This research is part of the ANRS strategic program “Réservoirs du VIH”. It is the result of a collaboration between the CNRS, Montpellier University, the Inserm, the Institut Pasteur, the Henri-Mondor AP-HP hospital in Créteil, the Gui de Chauliac hospital (CHU de Montpellier) and the VRI (Vaccine Research Institute), and is published in the journal Nature on March 15, 2017. A patent owned by the CNRS has been filed for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of the identified marker.
A clinical trial conducted by the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute and the Fight AIDS Foundation has induced HIV control in 5 people who have been in an antiretroviral pause for 5, 13, 17, 20 and 27 weeks, respectively. Usually virus rebounds during the first 4 weeks after treatment interruption. This is the first therapeutic intervention against HIV that has proved to be successful in reeducating the immune system of HIV-infected people, enabling it to keep the virus under control while not taking antiretroviral drugs.