A recent study has offered intriguing insights into how “artificial antibodies” can be scientifically engineered to eliminate the deadly HIV in human beings and ultimately deliver a possible cure for AIDS.
Two studies conducted independently by U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and scientists associated with Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke-NUS, and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, involved fastidiously intricate scientific procedures. The experiment used “artificially fashioned” antibodies of the immune system’s “Y shaped molecules” to reinforce the immune response to HIV-infected cells.
According to experts, some of the fundamental impediments in the elimination of HIV include the constrained ability of the immune system to detect latent HIV infected cells, the presence of the killer T cell-eluding “escape mutants” that accelerate detection failure, as well as the low frequency of “circulating HIV-specific T cells” in patients. The bi-specific antibody (DART), according to the findings, is likely to help overcome all of these impediments.
“Enhancement of HIV-specific immunity is likely required to eliminate latent HIV infection. Here, we have developed an immunotherapeutic modality aimed to improve T cell–mediated clearance of HIV-1–infected cells. Combined with HIV latency reversing agents, cytolytic effector T cells (HIVxCD3 DARTs) have the potential to be effective immunotherapeutic agents to clear latent HIV-1 reservoirs in HIV-infected individuals.”
HIV causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by destroying helper T cells critical to the activation of immune responses that shield the body from potential infection. When the virus penetrates the human system, it binds to “co-receptors” on the surfaces of the white blood cells and discharges genetic material into the core of these cells.
Once HIV has secured entry into the host cell, it reproduces as frequently as the latter. In addition to striking the immune system, the virus has an indomitable ability to evade the human body’s innate immune responses. As a consequence, the virus is able to mutate rapidly the moment a host cell begins to replicate itself and successfully does so without being recognized or detected in the process.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, 1,218,400 persons are living with HIV infection in the United States, of which an estimated 12 percent are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the number of new HIV infections every year has remained somewhat stable. In recent years, approximately 50,000 new HIV infections per year have been reported with some groups more affected than others. Overall, an estimated 1,194,039 people in the United States have been diagnosed with AIDS.
Research has shown that the bi-specific molecule experiment has been increasingly employed in the field of Cancer Studies and has assisted the immune system in detecting and targeting tumor cells. In case of HIV, “pre-clinical” models are sufficiently indicative of an equally vital experiment where HIV infected cells can be tracked, spotted and instantly eliminated by means of scientifically corroborated mechanisms.
Although quality of life for HIV/AIDS patients has improved significantly in recent years with the introduction of sophisticated new therapies, the deadly virus, which has until recent times claimed nearly 40 million lives around the world, is yet to be completely eradicated. Adding to the startling statistics, approximately 78 million people have been infected since the beginning of this epidemic.
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