Promising Israeli HIV treatment kills infected cells

A team of scientists at Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem have successfully developed a novel approach to stopping the spread of HIV: A protein therapy that kills HIV-infected cells while leaving healthy cells alone.

In a paper published in the August issue of AIDS Research and Therapy, the research team describes how, by using a peptide – a short protein segment – to cause HIV to produce many copies of its genetic material instead of just a few, they can cause HIV-infected cells to self-destruct without damaging uninfected cells.

In the normal infection process, HIV-1 – the most common form of human inmmunodeficiency virus – inserts only a few copies of its genetic material into a cell, which then produces more of the virus, which then infects other cells. Current therapies kill the virus but do not shut down the manufacturing process.

HIV treatment from Israel holds hope for eliminating HIV infection

The researchers who developed the treatment – Abraham Loyter and Aviad Levin of HUJ’s Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences and Assaf Friedler and Zvi Hayouka of the university’s Institute of Chemistry – reported that after injecting the peptide into human cells, the infected cells disappeared within two weeks, and no new infected cells were detected two weeks later.

Existing therapies have succeeded in turning HIV from a certain death sentence to a manageable chronic disease. The treatment developed at Hebrew University of Jerusalem holds out the hope of an actual cure for the disease by eliminating the virus completely from infected individuals.

Before that hope can become reality, the treatment must first undergo testing in animals and humans. HUJ’s technology transfer arm, Yissum, is seeking a commercial partner to shepherd the therapy through the clinical trial process.

The peptide therapy joins a number of new approaches to fighting HIV and AIDS being developed worldwide, including a U.S.-funded study of an AIDS vaccine in Thailand and the development in South Africa of a vaginal gel that prevents replication of the virus.

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