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Apr 13, 2017 09:39 AM EDT

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a new method to tether HIV-fighting antibodies to immune cells. This results to a cell population that is resistant to the virus.

The experiments, which were done under lab conditions, demonstrated that these resistant cells can easily replace diseased cells. This may have the potential to cure the disease in a person with HIV.

Jia Xie, senior staff scientist at TSRI, said that the protection would be long-term. Xie is the first author of the study published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Science Daily reported that the study was led by Richard Lerner, M.D., Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry at TSRI. The researchers plan to work with investigators at City of Hope's Center for Gene Therapy to check this new therapy in efficacy and safety tests in terms of federal regulations before testing it with patients.

The new technique provides a major advantage over therapies where antibodies float freely in the bloodstream at a low concentration. Instead, antibodies in the latest study stick to a cell's surface and blocks HIV from spreading the infection by connecting to a vital cell receptor.

It has been deemed as the "neighbor effect." This means that an antibody stuck near a cell is more effective than having several antibodies float in the bloodstream.

Before they tested the technique against HIV, the researchers used it against rhinovirus, which is responsible for cases of the common cold. They utilized a vector called lentivirus to deliver a new gene to cultured human cells.

The gene instructed cells to synthesize antibodies that stick with the human cell receptor (ICAM-1) that rhinovirus needs. Since the antibodies monopolized the location, the virus cannot enter the cell to infect it.

According to, the finished product was a combination of engineered and unengineered cells since the delivery system cannot reach 100 percent of cells. The researchers used the same technique with HIV and tested antibodies that have the potential to protect the receptor on the very immune cells.

Follows Scripps Research Institute, science, HIV-Resistant, cells, HIV, medicine, biology
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