Scientists from Israel have presented a method that, in their opinion, can be used to treat HIV / AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) with a single injection, as well as to vaccinate the disease. The therapy is designed to adapt to the virus, even as it mutates.
With new and existing drugs, AIDS has been transformed from a fatal disease into a chronic one. However, there is still no way to ensure that patients can be completely cured. A team from Tel Aviv University has presented a unique approach to this in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Researchers have modified B lymphocytes to produce anti-HIV antibodies in response to the presence of the virus. These white blood cells produce antibodies to fight viruses, bacteria and other pathogens naturally in the body. They are formed in the marrow and then travel to various organs.
So far, only a handful of scientists have been able to modify B cells outside the body genetically. The Israeli scientists are the first to have managed to do it inside the body and make it produce the antibodies they want, says Dr. Adi Barzel, who leads the study.
The scientists used the well-known CRISPR method, which allows the genetic material to be changed in a precisely selected place. Scientists used safe viruses to deliver this system and the appropriate gene to lymphocytes.
Israeli scientists use two AAV family viral carriers. One carries the code for the desired antibody, and the other carries the code for the CRISPR system. When CRISPR cuts a site of scientists choosing on the genome of B lymphocytes, it directs the insertion of the gene delivered – the one that encodes antibodies to AIDS-causing HIV, explains Alessio Nehmad, one of the researchers.
In animal testing, all treated subjects responded properly and began to produce antibodies.
The authors of the novel approach explain that there are currently no genetic treatments for AIDS, so the possibilities associated with the invention are “enormous”, according to the researchers.
“We (Israeli scientists) have created an innovative therapy that can probably fight the disease with one injection, which would mean an incredible improvement in the patient’s condition. When altered B cells encounter HIV, it stimulates them to divide, so we use the root cause of the disease to fight it,” explains Dr. Barzel.
“Moreover, if the virus mutates, the B lymphocytes will also change accordingly to fight it further. So we created the first therapy in the world that can evolve in the body, start an ‘arms race’ and thus destroy viruses,” adds the expert.
The authors of the method expect that it will be able to treat AIDS in the next few years.
But that’s not all – the same approach can be used to treat other infectious diseases as well as some virus-induced cancers, including cervical and head and neck cancers.