A study shows gene modification could be useful in HIV treatment.
The research, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, involved the first ever ‘gene editing’ done in humans.
As reported by the New York Times, ‘gene editing’ is a procedure that focuses on a gene and disarms it.
In the study, researchers used the technique on 12 HIV positive people and removed a protein from immune cells the virus attaches itself to. Cells were first removed from the patients, treated, then returned via an intravenous line.
Initial results show the immune cells can be changed without harm to patients, and the transformed cells fight infection.
‘It’s a great strategy,’ Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said to the New York Times.
‘It’s exciting, interesting, elegant science. But a lot of "ifs" need to be addressed before you can say "Wow, this could really work,"’ Fauci continued.
Fauci was not involved in the research.
The researchers are from the University of Pennsylvania, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. and Sangamo BioSciences.
Sangamo, a company located in California, makes the ‘gene-editing’ tool.
The results of the study will be published, on 5 March, in The New England Journal of Medicine.
According to a press release from the White House, ‘future research will include evaluating this experimental treatment in more volunteers.’