Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have reported their first findings from a novel study to determine whether virus-fighting immune cells can be genetically altered to boost the immune system's response to HIV infection.
"This innovative approach provides further groundwork for future efforts to treat HIV by manipulating the immune system," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
The NIAID scientists studied 30 sets of identical twins in which one twin was infected with HIV and the other was uninfected. HIV-fighting T-cells were taken from the healthy twin and genetically altered to produce an extra receptor that helps the cells recognize HIV-infected cells. The engineered cells were then infused into the HIV-infected twin, with the goal of augmenting or restoring the T-cells' ability to fight the virus.
In a paper to be presented by principal investigator Robert E. Walker, M.D., at the 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, the scientists report that transfer of genetically altered T-cells into 30 HIV-infected twins was safe and well-tolerated. Trying different combinations of T-cells, they learned that a mix of genetically bolstered CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells proved to be the most long-lived. The cells not only persisted at high levels in the bloodstream for at least 100 days after infusion, but also proliferated.
"Although these results are preliminary, they're encouraging enough for us to take the next steps in studying this approach," says Dr. Walker.
The research is a collaboration with Cell Genesys, Inc., of Foster City, Calif.
Cell Genesys scientists developed the methods for transferring the
receptor-producing genes into T-cells, while NIAID scientists are conducting the
Phase I/II clinical trial of the experimental treatment at the NIH Clinical
Center in Bethesda, Md. Cell Genesys is conducting additional work to examine
this approach in the more practical setting of autolog
Contact: June Wyman
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases