Gene therapy raises hopes for HIV cure

HIV cure could be a step closer

Hopes of finding a cure for HIV have been raised after an attempt to use gene therapy as a treatment produced some promising results.

The therapy was tested on 74 patients and was found to be safe as well as appearing to reduce the effect of the virus on the immune system.

The virus was prevented from replicating itself when sufferers were injected with blood stem cells carrying a molecule which targeted two HIV proteins.

The hope is that one treatment of the gene therapy could be enough to replace a lifetime of antiretroviral therapy.

Lead researcher, Professor Ronald Mitsuyasu, said the research was the first to come through tightly controlled trials in which patients did not know whether they were getting the therapy or the placebo.

He said: ‘Gene therapy has the potential of needing only a one-time or infrequent administration of product and would allow the patients to control their own HIV internally without the need for continuous drug therapy.

‘While this treatment is far from being perfected, it is not yet as effective or as complete as current antiretroviral therapy in controlling HIV, the study did show proof of concept that inserting and administering a single anti-HIV gene in the patients’ own blood stem cells and giving it back to them could reduce viral replication to some degree when anti-HIV medications are stopped.’

However, Professor Mitsuyasu said long-term follow up was needed to ensure the therapy was safe.

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