05 July 2006

T-cell trick may help fight Aids

Researchers have found a way to manipulate human embryonic stem cells to grow into T-cells - a discovery that might help in the development of a gene therapy against Aids.


US researchers have found a way to genetically manipulate human embryonic stem cells so they grow into mature disease-fighting T-cells - a discovery they say might help in the development of gene therapy against Aids.

T-cells are one of the body's main defences against disease. In this study, researchers demonstrated that it is possible to convert embryonic stem cells into blood-forming stem cells that, in turn, can turn into the helper T-cells. These are the T-cells that are specifically targeted by HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

The study was conducted by a team from the University of California, Los Angeles, Aids Institute and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine.

The findings, published this week in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mark the first time scientists have been able to derive T-cells out of human embryonic stem cells.

An important weapon against Aids
"This tells you that you may be able to use human embryonic stem cells to treat T-cell and other blood diseases," lead researcher Zoran Galic, an assistant research biologist, said in a prepared statement. "This could be a very important weapon in the fight against Aids."

The human embryonic stem cells were incubated on mouse bone marrow support cells, which converted the embryonic stem cells into blood-forming cells. These blood-forming cells were then injected into a human thymus gland that had been implanted in a mouse. The thymus gland converted the blood-forming cells into T-cells.

The thymus, located just above the heart in humans, is where T-cells develop.

The study results suggest it's possible to decipher the signals that control the development of embryonic stem cells into T-cells, noted study co-author Jerome Zack, associate director of the UCLA Aids Institute.

"That way we can eventually repopulate the immune system in patients needing T-cells," Zack said in a prepared statement. – (HealthDayNews)

Read more:
HIV/Aids Centre

July 2006


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules