A single injection to cure HIV? This new treatment raises immense hope

A new study by Israeli and American researchers raises great hope in the fight against HIV. The new treatment would make it possible to permanently get rid of the virus… in a single injection.

This is a new and potentially decisive advance in the fight against HIV. In a study published in the journal Nature on June 9, 2022, a team from Tel Aviv University announces that it has paved the way for one-time treatment for patients with the virus, thanks to a new technology consisting in genetically modify immune cells directly in the body.

Scientists have thus succeeded in manufacture live type B lymphocytesproducing immunoglobulins (proteins whose role is to destroy molecules recognized as foreign to the body, such as viruses, bacteria and other parasites), so that affected subjects can develop antibodies against HIV.

Researchers manage to ‘deactivate’ HIV

B lymphocytes are white blood cells synthesized in the heart of the bone marrow and, once mature, circulate in the blood and lymphatic system to participate in the body’s natural defenses.

And if previous work has shown the possibility of transplanting white blood cells modified to specifically neutralize HIV, this new treatment would be able to directly create these B lymphocytes in the heart of the recipient’s body without worrying about a possible problem of compatibility, thanks to CRISPR-Cas9 gene technology.

Developed in 2012 by researchers Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020, this technology makes it possible in summary to perform a “cutting” of DNA at specific locations, in any cell, and to render them inoperative. In this specific case, Cas9, a protein of bacterial origin with antiviral properties, is used to cut the DNA of the virus and thus “deactivate” it.

“Until now, only a few scientists have been able to engineer B cells outside the body, and in this study, we were the first to do so inside the body while having these cells generate the desired antibodies”details Dr. Adi Barzel, co-lead author of the study, in a press release.

“Defeat the virus with a single injection”

Tested on mice with a single intravenous injection per individual, the treatment showed convincing results, the guinea pigs developing an excellent immune response and displaying large quantities of anti-HIV antibodies in their blood. A success that undoubtedly opens up a range of new possibilities for treating the virus.

We have developed an innovative treatment that can defeat the virus with a single injection, with the potential to bring about considerable improvement in the condition of patients. When the modified B cells encounter the virus, the virus stimulates them and encourages them to divide, so we use the very cause of the disease to fight it.”enthuses Dr. Adi Barzel.

Even better : “If the virus changes, the B cells will also change accordingly in order to fight it, so we created the first drug that can evolve in the body and defeat viruses in the ‘arms race’.

And this breakthrough could find many other uses than the fight against HIV, according to the researcher: “Based on this study, we can expect that in the coming years we will be able to produce a medicine for AIDS, and also for other infectious diseases and for certain types of cancer caused by a virus, such as cervical cancer, head and neck cancer.”

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