Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Potentially New HIV Treatment


The research institute where I work focuses on immunology and it has some very notable faculty. Therefore we get many visiting scholars giving talks in the hopes of landing a job at the institute. The focus of the institute is to use cellular based therapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. There were two talks on Monday and because I can only handle so much scientific rambling in one day I limited myself to one talk that was of specific interest to me. Immunotherapy for HIV. The researcher giving the talk works at UT Southwestern, a giant research and hospital facility in Dallas. I thought her talk was pretty damn amazing and I thought many of you would be interested in hearing about this potentially new treatment for HIV that is not based in toxic pharmacological agents. I've provided a diagram cause its easier to understand with the visual. I've put this in laymen's terms but if you have any questions please email me, I'll be happy to answer.
Slide1
So when you get infected with HIV the virus specifically infects your T-Helper cells. These cells are essential for fighting off opportunistic infections and when the HIV virus obliterates enough of your CD4 cells you get Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS. There is a latency period in which HIV has infected T-Cells but the virus is not yet being produced by the cell. This is depicted by the red latent HIV infected T-Cell. T-Cells with latent HIV infections express a protein on their surface, the purple lumps. This protein is specific to latently infected T-Cells and can be recognized with an antibody. This is where it gets cool. This researcher has coupled the antibody that recognizes the protein on the infected cells to a toxin, as shown by the antibody with toxin. Then the antibody with the toxin attaches to the cell, the cell will ingest it and the toxin will destroy the T-Cell. No more latently infected T-Cell, one less factory for HIV to be produced in. Because the antibody is specific for ONLY HIV infected T-Cells it will leave uninfected T-Cells (Blue) untouched so that they can remain to help fight infection. Pretty cool huh?! I think so.

This method doesnt attack the virus itself but by destroying the latently infected T-Cells you reduce the number of loci where HIV can be produced later on. Less HIV factories means less overall HIV and your remaining T-Cells are available to fight off other infections and the virus.

What's good about this is that instead of taking a drug that has a global affect on the entire body, such as a retroviral, you can have a "drug" that only targets cells that are infected. The results of this therapy in the lab have been very good and the clinical trials are going to be starting soon. This therapy isn't completely foolproof and there are caveats. There will most likely be some issues to iron out in clinical trials but I think this approach has a lot of promise.

11 Comments:

Blogger Hypoxic said...

Adam, looks promising. Let's hope it works.

8:40 PM  
Blogger jjd said...

does sound promising and your explanation is very easy to understand. maybe you should write textbooks!

9:31 PM  
Blogger Donnie said...

Wow, that's exciting. I hope it works. Thanks for the info!

11:12 PM  
Blogger tornwordo said...

Well explained, and looks like some potentially good news for many people.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Sheri said...

Thank you for providing the explanation in layman's terms. I know my brain appreciated it!

6:13 AM  
Blogger farmboyz said...

Amazingly, I was able to follow that all the way through. usually I glaze over about 30% of the way through a technical explanation of anything. I got C an Ipod last year, and I haven't got a clue as to how it operates. Same with our Sony Cybershot.
more to the point, what is the toxin to be used? Distilate of double cheese? Seriously, you must now keep us posted on this.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Thanks for posting the info. It's always good to hear about new avenues of research.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Spider said...

Fascinating! Lets hope the research continues and there is funding to cover it.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Interesting. I hope this works!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Exciting! Thanks for sharing the info

6:29 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Cool!!

Warning normal people - science geek language below.

Is this a therapy that could be used in conjunction (or maybe instead of) with Flossie Wong Staal's ribozyme therapy. If I remember correctly her ribozyme detects and cuts sequences specific to TAT and REV rendering them untranscribable.

8:27 PM  

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