Massachusetts General Hospital
Research inches closer to a cure for HIV/AIDS
Although antiretroviral therapy has dramatically improved the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, a cure is needed to fully restore health and to remove the burden – financial and otherwise – of lifelong daily medication. That's the ultimate goal of Dr. Brad Jones who is using blood samples from HIV-infected patients to advance development of a potential drug and a nanotechnology-based delivery system that would allow infection-fighting cytotoxic T cells to seek out and eliminate HIV infection.
Cytotoxic T-cells represent a powerful arm of the human immune system that act by recognizing and killing virus-infected cells. However, in patients who are on antiretroviral therapy, HIV avoids being eradicated by these cells by entering into a 'latent state' where it hides from the immune system, only to later re-establish a spreading infection.
Dr. Jones is taking a unique approach to this challenge by equipping each cytotoxic T-cell with a nanoparticle "backpack" containing latency-reversing drugs that force HIV out of hiding, exposing the virus to killing by these same T-cells. It is hoped that this will allow the immune system to purge all reservoirs of HIV from the body, thus completely eliminating infection. He has already filed a preliminary patent on the technology, which could also be used to fight cancer.
"Just a few years ago, you couldn't even say the word 'cure' when it came to HIV/AIDS for fear of giving people false hope. Today, advances in research such as this, means that finding a cure has finally entered the realm of possibility."
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