A new study from Tel Aviv University offers a new and unique treatment for AIDS. which may be developed into a vaccine or a one-off treatment for patients with HIV.
The study examined the engineering of type B white blood cells in the patient’s body so as to secrete anti-HIV antibodies in response to the virus.
The work was led by Dr Adi Barzel and the PhD student Alessio Nehmad, both from the school of neurobiology, biochemistry and biophysics at the George Wise faculty of life sciences and the Dotan Centre for Advanced Therapies, in collaboration with the Sourasky Medical Centre (Ichilov).
The study, whose findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature, was conducted in collaboration with additional researchers from Israel and the US.
Over the last two decades, the lives of many AIDS patients have improved as a result of treatments that change the disease from lethal to chronic.
However, there is still a long way to go before a treatment is found that would provide the patients with a permanent cure. One possible way to do it, with a one time injection, has been developed for the first time in Dr Barzel’s laboratory.
Dr Barzel explained: “Until now, only a few scientists, and we were among them, had been able to engineer B cells outside the body. In this study we were the first to do this in the body and to make these cells generate desired antibodies. The genetic engineering is done with viral carriers derived from viruses that were engineered so as not to cause damage but only to bring the gene coded for the antibody into the B cells in the body.”
Currently, the researchers explain, there is no genetic treatment for AIDS, so the research opportunities are vast. Dr. Barzel concluded: “We developed an innovative treatment that may defeat the virus with a one-time injection, with the potential of bringing about tremendous improvement in the patients’ condition.
“When the engineered B cells encounter the virus, the virus stimulates and encourages them to divide, so we are utilising the very cause of the disease to combat it. Furthermore, if the virus changes, the B cells will also change accordingly in order to combat it, so we have created the first medication ever that can evolve in the body and defeat viruses in the arms race’”.
The Tel Aviv team say that based on this study they expect that over the coming years “we will be able to produce in this way a medication for AIDS, for additional infectious diseases and for certain types of cancer caused by a virus, such as cervical cancer, head and neck cancer and more”.
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