Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have come up with a way to not just “kick” HIV cells hiding in the immune system, but to kill the virus as well. While no clinical trials have been done just yet, researchers are calling this yet another step towards coming up with a vaccine.
The new approach takes it cues from cancer immunotherapy, using dendritic cells to induce the immune system to kill HIV. These dendritic cells were engineered to seek, activate, and kill the cells where HIV is hiding. Funding is now being pursued so that clinical trails on humans can begin.
Currently, HIV is controlled through antiretroviral therapy. This requires a daily intake of medications and does not eradicate the virus. Instead, HIV goes into a latent, inactive phase.
While this new development is exciting, scientists are also quick to manage any expectations about finding a cure. Gay Star News quotes HIV advocate and sexual health expert Matthew Hodson, who was excited but also cautious about the development.
“It’s exciting that there are a number of studies underway at the moment that are aiming towards a cure. This new work seems promising but it is very early days yet, as human trials have not yet started,” he said. “Last year’s RIVER study, which followed a broadly similar strategy, ultimately failed to reduce HIV DNA in the body, beyond the level provided by HIV treatment.”
This development follows the ones made last month, when two people were possible made HIV-free. In May of last year, a possible universal antibody for HIV-1 was discovered. Back in 2017, a South African child was also “virtually cured” of HIV after immediately undergoing a 40-week regimen of antiretroviral treatment once she was discovered to have high levels of HIV in their blood.
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