Stem Cells for HIV Treatment

by Enrique Rivero ,  UCLA Health Sciences | 2010-06-29

BACKGROUND: HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus, and it attacks the immune system. You can get HIV from contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. It cannot be spread by kissing or sharing drinking glasses with an infected person. An estimated 1.2 million persons in the United States are living with HIV. It's also estimated that 24 to 27 percent of those people are undiagnosed and unaware of their infection. These statistics are according to the Centers for Disease Control.

TREATMENT: Current U.S. Guidelines list several preferred regimens for people starting anti-HIV treatment. They all contain two nucleoside analogs: emtricitabine (Emtriva) and tenofovir (Viread). Many other combinations are listed as "alternative regimens." Other combinations are listed for use only when a preferred or alternative regimen cannot or should not be used.

USING STEM CELLS: Researchers from the UCLA AIDS Institute have for the first time demonstrated that human blood stem cells can be engineered into cells that can target and kill HIV-infected cells -- a process that potentially could be used against a range of chronic viral diseases. The study, published in the-peer reviewed online journal PLoS One, provides a proof-of-principle -- that is, a demonstration of feasibility -- that human stem cells can be engineered into the equivalent of a genetic vaccine.