HIV claims the lives of millions annually. It is a devastating disease that has destroyed families, leaving millions of children’s as orphans in numerous countries in Africa and around the world.
The virus wreaks havoc by destroying a person’s immune system. Eventually, many HIV patients progress to AIDS and develop opportunistic infections, like tuberculosis, pneumocystis pneumonia, meningoencephalitis, thrush, toxoplasmosis and numerous others.
In the US, HIV has become a chronic disease because of increased access to drugs and other supportive therapy. However, such is not the case in other countries around the world.
In early HIV infection, the virus invades the body’s immune cells via CCR5. CCR5 can be found on T-cells, macrophages, dendritic cells and microglia. After binding and replicating the virus kills these extremely important cells. They are therefore no longer able to protect the person from an infection.
Sangamo Biosciences announced earlier this month that it has developed SB-278-T, a type of gene therapy that could combat AIDS. This is exciting news because it involves only a single infusion unlike the standard multi-drug HAART drug therapy given to HIV positive patients. Researchers believe that SB-278-T may also be able to cure the disease.
Sangamo withdraws blood from patients infected with the virus. It then treats the patients’ blood with its “zinc finger nuclease-generated CCR5-modified, autologous T-cell product (SB728-T).” The zinc finger shuts down the CCR5 receptor expressed on the patients T-cells making it impossible for the virus to enter and cause an infection. The blood is then injected back into the HIV- infected patient. Once in the patient the virus is unable to infect their immune cells because there is no CCR5.
What’s next? All drugs must go through a series of phases before they can be placed on the market to ensure safety and efficacy. Researchers at Sangamo believe they have a drug that will change millions of lives in the not so distant future. Once approved many analysts believe that SB-728-T will change the course of HIV management and treatment.
Source: fiercebiotech.com, forbes.com
Photo Credit: cleveland.com, nature.com