Engineered cells against HIV
Engineered Immune cells can know be used to kill HIV infected cells before they become HIV virus producing factories. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine made a breakthrough in fight against HIV by transforming genetically engineered immune cells into potent weapons against the disease.
A subgroup of immune cells known as CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes or CTLs, recognize cells infected with HIV and kill them before they become HIV-producing factories. This CTL activity initially keeps the infection in check.
However, CTLs may not bind tightly enough to the infected cells or because HIV mutates so rapidly, the virus subdues the immune system, thus boosting the virus in the absence of drug therapy and resulting in AIDS.
Certain of the CTLs of elite controllers may be genetically equipped to bind tightly to HIV-infected cells and destroy them and thereby suppress the infection indefinitely.
The idea was first to identify the elite controllers "super" CTLs and to isolate the genes that enable these cells to bind tightly to HIV-infected cells and kill them efficiently; then this gene
transfer into CTLs that do not recognize HIV- infected cells and convert them into potent killers of those cells.
CTLs T-cell receptor(TCR) has two chains- alpha and beta, that the researchers isolated the genes that code for each of the two "chains" from potent HIV-specific CTL.
The genes were combined and packaged inside a special type of virus, called a lentivirus. The lentiviruses the inserted these genes into chromosomes of naive CTLs obtained from a naïve donor's (not infected by HIV) blood and reprogrammed them into potent HIV-specific CTLs.
During the study, the researchers injected mice with both HIV infected human cells and with reprogrammed naïve CTLs into which the HIV recognizing T-cell receptor genes had been inserted using the lentiviral delivery system.
The findings revealed that after on week the infected cells had virtually been eliminated. Researchers found that these genetically reprogrammed CTLs have very strong activity in terms of killing HIV-infected cells in both test-tubes and an animal model. Researchers believe that the novel strategy could lead to and entirely new approach for combating AIDS and other viral diseases.