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Australian Researcher Discovered A Way To Turn the HIV Virus Against Itself In Human cells

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Australian Researcher Discovered A Way To Turn the HIV Virus Against Itself In Human cells

According to David Harrich, a researcher from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, in Australia, he has developed a method capable of turning the HIV virus against itself. This is an important breakthrough in future AIDS treatment. The study was recently published in the journal Human Gene Therapy.

Harrich says that the managed to modify a protein that aides the proliferation of HIV, thus turning it into an inhibiting protein. This protein was observed to reduce  the proliferation rate of the HIV virus. Experiments on laboratory animals were thoroughly conducted. Researchers also achieved the same result using Petri dishes. Thorough animal experimentation is needed before human trials can begin. “I have never seen anything like it. The modified protein works every time”, said Harrich. He also added that the new protein, named Nullbasic, inhibited the viral replication by as much as 8 times the normal rate. His research team notes that if research is continued on this current path, a cure for AIDS could be discovered in the near future. However, researcher Frank Wegmann comments that a drug based on this protein is still far from clinical application. According to Wegmann, the creation of such drug would be a great challenge due to the fact that the genetic information would have to be introduced into the genes of patients. This means that all the infected cells should be able to create this new protein. The primary cells infected by the HIV virus are the helper T cells (specifically CD4+ T cells), the macrophages, and the dendritic cells. Wegmann notes that this would require very expensive and potentially dangerous gene therapy.

Currently, researchers from the Australian institute have managed to partly test gene therapy in laboratory conditions, however therapy could have different effects on infected humans. Professor Harrich believes that this new protein, Nullbasic, is a promising step forward in treating AIDS and helping to prevent the spread of the HIV virus. “The virus might infect a cell but it wouldn’t spread. You would still be infected with HIV, but the virus would stay latent, so it wouldn’t develop into AIDS”, noted Harrich. The current promise is that this protein will be able to maintain a healthy immune system. AIDS is defined in terms of either a CD4+ T cell count below 200 cells per µL or the occurrence of any of the 22 specific diseases that are associated with the HIV infection. According to precedent studies and clinical evaluations, if the HIV infection is left untreated, AIDS develops in about 12 years. Current therapy, antiretroviral drugs can only prolong the period that precedes the onset of the disease.

Professor Harrich says that  if the new protein can be introduced as a form of therapy, it could inhibit the viral proliferation for an indefinite period of time. Another beneficial aspect of a new therapy would be the fact that it wouldn’t use multiple drugs, thus offering patients lower costs and a higher life quality. Trials on laboratory animals are planned to start this year.

For more information : study abstract