A recent preclinical trial by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, led by Dan Barouch, successfully suppressed the HIV virus in non-human primates for six months, according to Hindustan Times. The successful suppression, according to reports, was done without the use of additional antiretroviral treatments. The research suggests that the combination of PGT121 and GS-9620 targeted latently infected cells that concealed the virus. PGT121 is a type of broadly neutralizing antibody and GS-9620 is an immune stimulant developed for the study.
According to Hindustan Times, after receiving a course of antiretroviral therapy for the HIV-like infection, almost 50 percent of the monkeys injected with a broadly neutralising stimulatory compound suppressed the virus for six months without the administration of other drugs. One of the greatest challenges of the treatment of HIV is the ability of the virus to evade the immune system by hiding in certain immune cells. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the virus to low levels, but patients must continue taking these drugs daily to maintain the low level.
The finding from the research has encouraged the need for human trials, according to PMLive. The success of daily antiretroviral regimes in limiting the virus gave hope for a possible a cure in the past. The assumption was that since daily administration could limit the virus to low-levels, then the aggressive administration of antiretroviral drugs could eradicate the virus. However, research showed that reservoirs of the latent virus, protected from drugs, remain hidden in certain cells.
— Front Line Genomics (@FLGenomics) March 6, 2018
In the preclinical study, 45 percent of the animals tested did not show any signs of a rebound of the virus after stopping the daily treatment. According to Barouch, the drug “may be able to target the viral reservoir in virally suppressed monkeys.”
Gilead is betting big on gene editing to bolster its cell-based immunotherapy division, but will not be using #CRISPR. Instead, @GileadSciences will partner with Sangamo for access to their zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) gene-editing technology. https://t.co/Pe9SRmscXl pic.twitter.com/RBHKP1P83F
— C&EN (@cenmag) February 24, 2018
The researchers divided the monkeys into four groups but the group with the combination of broadly neutralizing antibody and an immune stimulant showed a delay in the rebound of the virus. The monkeys treated with the combination also had less viral DNA in their lymph nodes, according to the report. This indicates that the combination of the neutralizing antibody and immune stimulant reduced the reservoir of HIV virus hidden in certain immune cells. According to Barouch, the data from the study looks promising and points to a strategy for seeking a cure.
“Although we are still a long way off from having a cure for HIV, our data suggest a strategy for targeting the viral reservoir that can be further explored.”
The search for a cure for HIV has been ongoing for two decades; Timothy Brown remains the only person that has had HIV eradicated, according to PMlive. Scientists are also exploring other alternatives to eradicating the virus from the immune system using gene-editing techniques.