There might finally be a cure for HIV

Researchers at the American Gene Technologies (AGT), a pharmaceutical company in the US, have claimed that they have developed a permanent cure for HIV.

Myupchar November 12, 2019 18:12:40 IST
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There might finally be a cure for HIV
  • Researchers at the American Gene Technologies (AGT), a pharmaceutical company in the US, have claimed that they have developed a permanent cure for HIV

  • HIV has claimed more than 32 million lives since the 1980s

  • What makes this research stand out is that it is focussing on increasing the capacity of the immune system to fight against the virus

It might soon be possible to completely treat HIV. Researchers at the American Gene Technologies (AGT), a pharmaceutical company in the US, have claimed that they have developed a permanent cure for HIV.

HIV is one of the biggest public health concerns around the world today. It has claimed more than 32 million lives since the 1980s. This virus damages the immune system, so the person is not able to fight any infection. Currently, HIV is treated with antiretroviral therapy that controls the growth of the virus but does not completely eliminate it from the body.  

There might finally be a cure for HIV

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

However, AGT scientists used a different approach to treat the disease. Instead of targetting the virus, they focussed on the immune system and genetically strengthened it in such a way that it could fight the HIV virus on its own.

The drug is currently known as AGT103T. American Gene Technologies has already given an IND (Investigational Drugs and Devices) application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to let them test the drug on human volunteers in a phase 1 trial.

The research

AGT103T is actually a virus-based single-dose gene therapy. To develop it, the research team at AGT collected blood samples from HIV positive people and then separated a specific type of cells — T helper cells — from it. T helper (or CD4+) cells are specifically targetted by the HIV virus. A small fraction of all the T helper cells evolve to fight HIV in an infected person. These cells are highly susceptible to HIV and so are unable to eliminate the virus. 

To solve these problems, the AGT team used a virus and transferred a special fragment of DNA into the isolated T helper cells. The DNA fragment made the cells resistant to HIV damage. Millions of copies of these resistant cells were then created in the lab. The whole process took 11 days. Now in the next phase, the team is going to test the safety of the therapy and then reinject the cells into an HIV positive patient. 

Not the first gene therapy

It is not the first time that scientists have thought of using gene therapy for HIV treatment. Preventing the entry of HIV into the cell, cutting out infected DNA from healthy cells, removing HIV virus from infected cells and producing HIV resistant cells - have all been tried already. However, what makes this research stand out is that it is focussing on increasing the capacity of the immune system to fight against the virus. 

In a press release by American Gene Technologies, C. David Pauza, Chief Science Officer at AGT, explained why this therapy is better than its predecessors. "By providing high doses of virus-specific helper T cells, which are protected from HIV damage by a safe genetic modification, AGT's goal is to rebuild the capacity for normal, unhindered immune responses against HIV that may control the infection and protect against future virus exposures."

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on HIV-AIDS.

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