Researchers in Australia report they’ve learned how to alter a protein in HIV to makes it block replication, rather than spread the virus that eventually leads to AIDS.
“What we’ve actually done is taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we’ve changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it actually impedes virus replication—and does it quite strongly,” said Associate Professor David Harrich of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. “I consider that this is fighting fire with fire.”
The modified proteins can’t cure HIV but, as published in Human Gene Therapy, they have protected normal ones from converting under laboratory conditions.
In theory, they would help keep the HIV at bay, and allow the immune system to function normally. Patients would still be HIV-positive but, says Harrich, “this therapy is potentially a cure for AIDS,”
The treatment, a form of gene therapy involving the patient’s stem cells, could work after a single session.
It’s something of a runaround on a traditional cure: “You either have to eliminate the virus infection or alternatively you have to eliminate the disease process,” says Harrich. “And that’s what this could do, potentially for a very long time.”
Animal testing is scheduled to start later this year.
Do you think this could be the road to the end of AIDS or just another weapon in the fight? Be heard in the comments section.