In a study published in PLoS One, scientists from the UCLA AIDS Institute and colleagues have demonstrated that human blood stem cells can be engineered into cells that can target and kill HIV-infected cells. The good news is that, this process could potentially be used to combat other chronic viral diseases as well.
In this proof-of-principle study, it has been demonstrated that this type of approach can be used to engineer the human immune system, particularly the T-cell response, to specifically target HIV-infected cells. The researchers have identified the T-cell receptor molecules from the CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes, which guide the T cell in recognizing and killing HIV-infected cells. Since not enough of these cells exist to clear the virus from the body, the researchers cloned the receptor and genetically engineered human blood stem cells, then placed the stem cells into human thymus tissue that had been implanted in mice. The engineered stem cells developed into a large population of mature, multifunctional HIV-specific CD8 cells that could specifically target cells containing HIV proteins.
Based on the encouraging results, the scientists are optimistic that this approach could be a breakthrough in combating HIV and other chronic viral infections and further studies based on this approach are in pipeline.
Click here to read the PLoS ONE article.