Thursday, December 10, 2009

Attacking HIV with Adult Stem Cells

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Researchers at UCLA have demonstrated that adult stem cells that normally form blood and immune cells can be engineered to attack and kill HIV-infected cells. While exciting news, it should be kept in mind at this stage the research is still a proof-of-concept experiment done in mice; it shows that the technique is feasible at successfully destroying the virus-infected cells, but is still not ready for the clinic. The scientists took “killer” T-lymphocytes from an HIV-infected person and isolated the T-cell receptor molecule. “Killer” T-cells (CD8 cytotoxic lymphocytes) normally recognize and kill infected cells, but do not exist in high enough quantities to remove the HIV virus from an infected person. So the researchers cloned the DNA of that T-cell receptor molecule and added it to blood (hematopoietic) stem cells, genetically engineering them so that their progeny could attack HIV-infected cells. The engineered blood stem cells were placed into thymus tissue, which nurtures development of specific types of T-cells, including killer cells, and the tissue placed into mice to observe normal tissue development. The engineered blood stem cells grew into large quantities of killer T cells able to attack HIV-infected cells. The authors note that genetic engineering of human blood stem cells could be used to fight many types of viral infections. The paper is published in the journal PLOS One. . . . [more] Family Research Council


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