Doctors have used gene therapy to upgrade the immune system of 12 patients with HIV to help shield them from the virus’s attack. It helps patients no longer needing to take daily medication to control their infection.
The patients’ white blood cells were taken out of the body, given HIV resistance and then injected back in.
Some people are born with a very rare mutation that protects them from HIV.
It changes the structure of their T-cells so that the virus cannot get inside and multiply.
Now researchers are adapting patients’ own immune systems to give them that same defense.
Millions of T-cells were taken from the blood and grown in the laboratory until the doctors had billions of cells to play with.
About 10 billion cells were then infused back in that only around 20% were successfully modified.
When patients were taken off their medication for four weeks, the number of unprotected T-cells still in the body fell dramatically, whereas the modified T-cells seemed to be protected and could still be found in the blood several months later.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested the technique was safe.