New study discovered that potent antibodies can be used to provoke a unique type of cell that can be used to kill cells infected with HIV-1 (HIV-infected T cell on the picture). Image credits:NIAID/Flickr)


Promising results have been shown for HIV patients in the form of the same kind of immunotherapy that has also looked promising for cancer patients. HIV is the virus that ultimately causes AIDS and a new study has been focusing on killing these HIV cells with artificial receptors.

Potent antibodies that have been discovered recently help generate chimeric antigen receptor cells and are commonly known as CARs. When HIV cells come up against these CARs cells, they are destroyed.

The CARs cells have been specifically engineered to make surface receptors that have been designed to kill, through specific targeting, tumor or virus proteins. They are immune T cells, which have been created artificially. Using receptors in the fight against cancer has been used for the last decade but this approach hasn’t been used in the last 15 years to fight HIV. Experiments 15 years ago were not successful so the approach was dropped.

This is brand-new research, however, that is completely different due to the discovery of new antibodies during the last few years. Previously, the receptors were not based on antibodies and were an ineffective approach to fighting HIV.

The human body naturally attacks the HIV virus when it first enters the body but quickly wears down due to the sheer energy of the HIV onslaught. The HIV virus cells replicate quickly and are especially difficult to fight since they tend to hide in various T cells.

Dr. Otto Yang is the corresponding author of the study and a medical professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Yang also works at the AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research directing the research of pathogenesis and vaccines. He says that research into gene immunotherapy using chimeric receptors to fight cancer is ongoing. He also adds that while other research has taken place in regards to T-cell receptors and cancer antigens, UCLA is in fact the first research facility that has put together this HIV strategy.

In this new study focusing on HIV, T-cell receptors were engineered artificially with new generation antibodies. This would kill the cells that were infected with HIV.  Researchers made use of 7 antibodies that are broadly neutralizing, which have only been discovered recently. In the fight against invading viruses, these antibodies can bind a number of different strains instead of only a few. Therefore, the newly re-engineered antibodies, as CAR-T cell receptors, are able to attack a number of HIV strains. All of the 7 were able to direct the T cells to suppress and kill the viral replication to one degree or another.

It’s necessary to note, however, that the research has been performed only on a test tube basis so far. The next step is to do research involving humans and fortunately further research is indicated due to the promising results so far.

Researchers from the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research published their results in Journal of Virology.

[Science News Journal]