Could Patient’s own immune cells be reengineered to fight HIV?

By Kaya Jordan

Rachel Leibman and colleagues in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, have improved a protein called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and are using it to specifically target the HIV virus when added to T cells (white blood cells involved in the immune response). Leibman and colleagues have designed a way to extract T cells from a patient's blood to be replaced with T cells reengineered in the lab to express HIV-specific CARs. They discovered that “T cells expressing the new CAR were over 50 times more effective than those with the original CAR in preventing viral spread between human cells in the lab” (PLOS).

When the researchers tested the new CAR in mice infected with HIV, they found that mouse T cells reengineered to express the new CAR could protect other T cells in the mice from being attacked and depleted by HIV and prevent viral rebound, which occurs when the HIV levels in the blood return after a time of absence when receiving antiretroviral therapy (PLOS). The success with mice shows promise for the clinical testing of this technique, which could prove to be a more successful treatment for HIV.

PLOS. (2017, October 12). Reengineered immune system cells show early promise against HIV: Scientists make improvements to a previously promising treatment that fell short in clinical trials. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 15, 2017 from