A type of immunotherapy that has shown promising results against cancer could also be used against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, suggests new research.
Recently discovered potent antibodies can be used to generate a specific type of cell called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs, that can be used to kill cells infected with HIV-1, the findings showed.
CARs are artificially created immune T cells that have been engineered to produce receptors on their surface that are designed to target and kill specific cells containing viruses or tumour proteins.
Chimeric receptors are the focus of ongoing research into how gene immunotherapy can be used to fight cancer.
But they could also be used to create a strong immune response against HIV, said the study’s corresponding author Otto Yang, Professor at David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Although the human body’s immune system does initially respond to and attack HIV, the sheer onslaught of the virus — its ability to hide in different T cells and to rapidly replicate — eventually wears out and destroys the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to a host of infections and diseases.
Researchers have been looking for ways to strengthen the immune system against HIV, and the new research showed that CARs could be a weapon in that fight.
The findings were published in the Journal of Virology.
For the study, the researchers used seven recently discovered “broadly neutralizing antibodies” that have the ability to bind multiple strains of invading viruses, unlike earlier isolated antibodies that tend to bind few strains.
These antibodies were re-engineered as artificial CAR-T cell receptors to have activity against broad strains of HIV.
In lab tests, the researchers found that all seven had varying degrees of ability to direct killer T cells to proliferate, kill and suppress viral replication in response to HIV-infected cells.