Fighting HIV With Own Weapons Another Likely Cure for AIDS

First Posted: Jan 21, 2013 11:16 AM EST

Another possible cure for AIDS has been found, this time by turning HIV weapons against HIV itself. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Associate Professor David Harrich has determined how to modify a key protein in the virus, creating the "Nullbasic" protein, which disabled the virus capability to replicate.

"I have never seen anything like it. The modified protein works every time," Assoc Prof Harrich said.

Stopping the replication of HIV would provide solid and lasting protection from infection. It is working in the lab environment so far, and will be taken to animal trials in 2013.

"If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are a many hurdles to clear, we're looking at a cure for AIDS," he said. "You would still be infected with HIV, it's not a cure for the virus. But the virus would stay latent, it wouldn't wake up, so it wouldn't develop into AIDS. With a treatment like this, you would maintain a healthy immune system."

The successful development of a one-time treatment like this would also be great from a financial point of view for the patients, who currently have to take a regime of drugs for the rest of their lives - something that many people in third-world countries cannot afford.

Harrich has been researching HIV for thirty years, since starting as a research assistant at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the early 1980s when the first cases of HIV/AIDS emerged.

The research is funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship:

Apolloni A et al., A mutant Tat protein provides strong protection from HIV-1 infection in human CD4+ T cells, Human Gene Therapy, 2013, DOI: 10.1089/hum.2012.176

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