Scientists advance therapeutic strategy to potentially eliminate HIV

January 17, 2022
Scientists advance therapeutic strategy to potentially eliminate HIV

A new combination therapy was shown to remove 40% of cells with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) lurking in infected mice. There are currently 38 million people living with HIV worldwide, and an estimated 36 million deaths due to HIV-related diseases to date, according to the United Nations body for AIDS/HIV (UNAIDS) – scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), building on research from 2017 hope to find a way to thoroughly eliminate the virus.

In the 2017 research, cells that are naturally produced by the immune system were used to destroy HIV-infected cells that hid in the body of mice, said Dr. Jocelyn Kim, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. It was called a “kick and kill” technique, whereby a synthetic compound called SUW133 activated dormant HIV and enabled antiretroviral (ART) drugs to find and kill infected cells. Within 24 hours, up to 25% of HIV-infected cells had been eliminated.

For the new study, the UCLA team – including some of the same scientists from that earlier work – found a way to improve the outcome with a trifold combination of the SUW133 compound, ART drugs, and healthy natural killer immune cells. The team found that the combination worked better than either SUW133 or the natural killer cells alone and eliminated hard-to-reach HIV reservoirs in 40% of the mice.

“These findings show proof-of-concept for a therapeutic strategy to potentially eliminate HIV from the body, a task that had been nearly insurmountable for many years,” said Dr. Kim. “The study opens a new paradigm for a possible HIV cure in the future.”

With more research, the team plans to ideally eliminate HIV in 100% of test mice and will move on to experiments in primates and eventual human trials.

Read: Behavioural therapy model shown to successfully treat HIV/AIDS and depression

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