The “Berlin Patient” had a stem cell transplant and is doing well which leads to this new study. UCLA’s study shows that human stem cells can be genetically engineered to attack living cells infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“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,” study author Dr. Scott G. Kitchen, assistant professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
For the “proof-of-principle” study, Dr. Kitchen’s team implanted genetically engineered human blood stem cells into “humanized” mice, rodents in which HIV infection and the resulting disease resemble what happens in HIV-infected humans. When the researchers checked the mice’s blood, plasma, and organs weeks later, they found an increase in levels of so-called CD4 “helper” T cells–infection-fighting cells that become depleted as a result of HIV infection. At the same time, levels of HIV fell. Before everyone gets to excited, there are obstacles must be overcome before the research might lead to a real-world cure. Researchers plan to begin making genetically engineered T cells that target different parts of HIV. So we’ll see what that road holds for a ‘race for the cure.’