Monday, September 19, 2011

The Elusive HIV Cure

Reserachers at Sangamo, a biotechnology company that aims to “turn genes on and off” may have discovered a “functional cure” for HIV.

The study tested a new gene treatment on ten HIV positive patients, all of whom currently manage the infection through highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Of the ten patients, six achieved positive enough results to temporarily cease taking HAART, leading to the virus’ decreased presence in four (to the extent where it was nearly undetectable in one).

Sangamo’s strategy is to target the CCR5 gene, which codes for a receptor that the HIV virus uses to enter the body’s immune system. The treatment, still in primary experimental stages, aims to shut off both alleles of the gene in as many cells as possible.

The treatment, known as SB-728-T, turns off the gene by distorting the genetic code for transcription factors, specifically zinc finger DNA-binding proteins (ZFPs). It also modifies the code for the gene itself through insertions, deletions, and mutations caused by zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs).

According to Dr. Carl June, the director of a research facility at the University of Pennsylvania, the treatment has the potential to render HAART obsolete. He noted the statistical relationship between an increased percentage of cells with the altered gene and the decreased impact of HIV – the patient whose HIV was nearly undetectable had double the number of altered cells by the end of the trial than the other patients.

With the planned expansion of Sangamo’s trials we may be seeing a functional cure for HIV/AIDS sooner than you thought.

Original article:

For more information on how HAART works:

For more information on the CCR5 gene:

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