Radical treatment helps patients‘ defences against virus by replacing immune cells with genetically modified versions.
A radical gene therapy to combat HIV using genetically modified cells that are resistant to the virus has been declared a success by scientists following the first clinical trial.
The treatment, which has never been tested on humans before, raised patients‘ defences against HIV by replacing some of their natural immune cells with GM versions.
Tests on people enrolled in the trial found that the disease-resistant cells multiplied in their bodies.Half of patients were taken off their usual drugs for three months and scientists recorded reduced levels of the virus.
Scientists were cautious not to draw strong conclusions from the small scale trial, which was designed to assess the safety of the therapy, but the early signs have raised their hopes. „We are absolutely encouraged by these results,“ said Bruce Levine, who helped to run the trial with a colleague, Carl June, at the University of Pennsylvania. „This is potentially a new therapy for HIV.“
A few shots of modified immune cells, or perhaps even one large infusion, could become an alternative for HIV patients who currently face spending the rest of their lives on antiretroviral drugs. But Levine said any improvement in the patients‘ health would be welcome, even if the therapy had to be used alongside existing treatments.