Scientists Engineer Stem Cells To Seek Out And Kill HIV (IBTimes)

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Drew Wilson, Apr 16, 2012.

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  1. Drew Wilson

    Drew Wilson AKA IceCube Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    Stem cells engineered to fight HIV are effective at suppressing the virus in mice, according to a new study. The engineered cells are able to seek out and destroy the virus, giving hope that a cure for HIV could be on the horizon.

    Previous research showed that killer T cells, an immune cell that helps fight infection, were able to destroy the virus in human thymus tissue. However, since HIV infected individuals have compromised immune systems, they have lower counts of killer T-cells than healthy patients, meaning they do not have enough killer T cells to fight off the virus. Killer T cells recognize a different peptie antigen, a string of amino acids that stimulates antibody production, than other t cells and get their name from the fact that they attack any foreign cell they come across without. A transfusion of killer T cells is out of the question because they need to be matched to the patient in the same way an organ does, researchers said.

    This most recent study shows that scientists can manipulate stem cells -- immature cells that can develop into any type of cell - by implanting genes, turning it into killer T cells which can kill the virus in living mice. While the mouse form of HIV is not exactly the same as it is in humans, the infection and progression closely mimic the virus in humans, and eliminating it is a huge step forward, researchers said.

    "We haven't fully developed the technology to clear them of HIV, but they are significantly suppressed in the amount of virus that's replicating," Dr. Scott Kitchen, study coauthor and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA, told NBC Los Angeles.

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    Nifty.

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