Will Engineered Stem Cells Win the War on HIV/AIDS?
A possible turning point toward a cure for HIV came last Friday when researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, announced that they have succeeded in attacking HIV-infected tissue in hundreds of “humanized” lab mice with genetically engineered stem cells.
"We believe that this study lays the groundwork for the potential use of this type of an approach in combating HIV infection in infected individuals, in hopes of eradicating the virus from the body," said lead investigator Scott Kitchen, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Still, at least at this point, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about how the aforementioned technique will act in human clinical trials since, from the researchers’ perspective—quote—“human immune cells reconstituted at a lower level in the humanized mice than they would in humans, and as a result, the mice's immune systems were mostly, though not completely, reconstructed."
In other words, HIV may take longer to mutate and spread in lab mice than in people like you and me, and as such, would require the use of not just one but “multiple," engineered T cell receptors to prove effective in human patients.
Underlying these findings, nonetheless, is great hope: "We believe that this is the first step in developing a more aggressive approach in correcting the defects in the human T cell responses that allow HIV to persist in infected people," Kitchen said.