HIV patients treated with genetically modified T cells remain healthy up to 11 years after initial therapy, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania report in the new issue of Science Translational Medicine. The results provide a framework for the use of this type of gene therapy as a powerful weapon in the treatment of HIV, cancer, and a wide variety of other diseases. "We have 43 patients and they are all healthy, " says senior author Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn Medicine. "And out of those, 41 patients show long term persistence of the modified T cells in their bodies." Early gene therapy studies raised concern that gene transfer to cells via retroviruses might lead to leukemia in a substantial proportion of patients, due to mutations that may arise in genes when new DNA is inserted.
In a groundbreaking study published last year, scientists reported that effective treatment with HIV medications not only restores health and prolongs life in many HIV-infected patients, but also curtails transmission to sexual partners up to ninety-seven percent. However, a new study by UCSF scientists shows that lack of basic living needs severely undercuts these advances in impoverished men. The new research builds on a 2010 finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that poverty is the single biggest factor linked to HIV infection in heterosexuals living in inner-city neighborhoods. In the new study published in PLoS ONE, UCSF researchers found that for HIV-infected homeless and unstably housed individuals, a failure to address unmet subsistence needs such as housing, food, clothing and hygiene, undermines these very real individual and public health benefits of HIV medication delivery.
UC Davis Health System researchers are a step closer to launching human clinical trials involving the use of an innovative stem cell therapy to fight the virus that causes AIDS. In a paper published in the May issue of the Journal of Virology, the UC Davis HIV team demonstrated both the safety and efficacy of transplanting anti-HIV stem cells into mice that represent models of infected patients. The technique, which involves replacing the immune system with stem cells engineered with a triple combination of HIV-resistant genes, proved capable of replicating a normally functioning human immune system by protecting and expanding HIV-resistant immune cells. The cells thrived and self-renewed even when challenged with an HIV viral load. "We envision this as a potential functional cure for patients infected with HIV, giving them the ability to maintain a normal immune system through genetic resistance, " said lead author Joseph Anderson, an assistant adjunct professor of internal medicine and a stem cell researcher at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures.
While the battle against HIV/AIDS attracts more donor funding globally than all other diseases combined, it has not diverted attention from fighting unrelated afflictions - such as malaria, measles and malnutrition - and may be improving health services overall in targeted countries, according to a study on Rwanda published in the May 2012 edition of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. A six-year investigation of health clinics in Rwanda by researchers at Brandeis University infuses fresh evidence into a long-standing debate about whether the intensive focus on HIV/AIDS, which in 2010 alone killed 1.8 million people, is undermining other health services, particularly in African countries that are at the epicenter of the pandemic. For example, between 2002 and 2006, one-third of funds from wealthy countries earmarked for health and population programs abroad were committed to fighting HIV/AIDS.
A research team led by Children's National Medical Center has identified a trigger that causes latent Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) to rapidly replicate itself. KSHV causes Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, and other cancers that commonly affect immunocompromised patients, including those with AIDS. Appearing in the online edition of the Journal of Virology, the study identifies apoptosis, or the programmed death of a virus' host cell, as the trigger for high-level viral replication. "Finding that the programmed death of a host cell triggered rapid production of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, means that KSHV has the ability to sense and respond to critical changes in the cells that it grows in, something we didn't know before, " stated lead author Alka Prasad, PhD, who is a member of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at Children's National Medical Center.