18 August 2010

HIV findings offer hope for 'cure'

Researches say they've discovered a way of killing off cells infected with HIV, offering hope for a cure. Yet so far they have only 'cured' HIV in small dishes of cells in a lab.


Israeli researchers said they have discovered a way of killing off cells infected with HIV that offered hope for a cure for the disease. 

The technique involved getting the virus to overload the host cell with viral DNA, which made the cell self-destruct and kill off the virus. 

However they warned that so far they have only "cured" HIV in small dishes of cells in a laboratory. Their findings would be  published in the journal Aids Research and Therapy

Antiretroviral therapy, the medical world's strongest existing weapon against the virus, stopped HIV from replicating, but did not

eradicate it from host cells or eliminate those cells. The researchers said that their approach could lead to an anti-HIV therapy that would eradicate the virus. 

The study

One of the authors of the paper, Professor Abraham Loyter of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said HIV spread through the human body when its DNA was incorporated into the genome of host cells.  

However the virus inserted only enough DNA to replicate, and not enough to make the host genome unstable, which would lead to the death of the infected cells in a process called apoptosis. 

Loyter said he and his team used amino acids called peptides to boost the integration of HIV DNA into the human genome. This caused the infected cells to go into "panic mode" and self-destruct. 

The experiment did not have any effect on non-infected cells. 

"Whilst this research is promising, a major caveat with these studies is that they are preliminary," Loyter said. "So far these experiments have only been shown to 'cure' HIV from small dishes of cultured cells in the authors' laboratory, but the findings are an exciting development in the quest to eradicate this devastating global pandemic." 

The process "may eventually be developed into a new and general anti-viral therapy", he said. - (Sapa, August 2010)


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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