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Experimental drug blocks HIV in lab study, human tests planned

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NEW YORK — Can an experimental drug developed to treat epilepsy block the AIDS virus? A preliminary lab study suggests it’s possible, and researchers are eager to try it in people.

HIVScientists experimented with the drug after uncovering details of how they believe HIV cripples the immune system to bring on AIDS.

When tested in human tissues in the laboratory, the drug “works beautifully” to prevent HIV from destroying key cells of the immune system, said Dr. Warner Greene of the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. Those results appear in a paper by Greene and others published online Thursday by the journal Nature.

In that work, and a companion study published in Science, Greene and colleagues focus on how HIV kills vital CD4 cells of the disease-fighting immune system.

Researchers have long known it infects some CD4 cells and turns them into virus-producing factories, killing them in the process. But far more cells die without undergoing that transformation. What is going on in these “bystander”CD4 cells?

The new work provides evidence that HIV enters these cells but fails to produce a full-blown infection, and in response the cells trigger a lethal attack on themselves by the immune system.

It’s “more of a suicide than a murder,” Greene said. “I believe this is the major mechanism through which CD4 cells are depleted, which is the hallmark of AIDS.”

The epilepsy drug, which is not on the market, blocks an enzyme that the research identified as playing a key role in that immune system attack.

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Prior studies of the drug in people show it is safe, Greene said. So the researchers are talking to the drug company about testing it in people infected with HIV. No timeline for such studies has been set, he said.

Greene said if such studies are successful, the drug might be used in people whose HIV resists standard drugs. It might also be useful as a temporary treatment to keep HIV at bay for people who can’t immediately get standard drugs, he said. It’s even possible, he speculated, that the enzyme-blocking drug might help scientists eradicate the virus from the body.

It’s not clear yet whether the enzyme-blocking approach will produce a practical therapy for HIV-infected people, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was not involved in the work.

But the new research behind that strategy is “an important advance” toward understanding how HIV kills immune system cells, he said.

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23 more reader comments:

  1. One step closer to a cure…

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 7:09pm
  2. wow… yeah cause its meant to be that way right?

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 7:12pm
  3. Clever

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 7:14pm
  4. Could’ve been done years ago if the drug companies weren’t making so much off of that disease.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 7:16pm
  5. Yes!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 8:21pm
  6. so wait, did they test on animals? or what?

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 10:56pm
  7. Hope the test people stay safe and that it works best it can!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 11:39pm
  8. wow this is great, hope they soon start testing in people to see the results, science is advancing, yay!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 1:28am
  9. Christian Seifert maybe you don’t need to be scared

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:29am
  10. Bout fu•kin time!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:47am
  11. We getting one step closer to a cure I can feel it

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:41pm
  12. Paul thanks for the post having HIV myself I know that huge progress is being made “Someday over the rainbow” :)

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:37pm
  13. I hope so

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:45pm
  14. Homosexuals will always keep aids alive. Especially for bug chasers! HIV is a right of passage and a way to connect with those who already have it. I love my HIV had it nine years.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:58pm
  15. You realize black straight females are the top spreader of HIV/Aids and not gays right? Probably not, you're the doofus who enjoys having a disease.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:56pm
  16. it’s time for a cure, long past time, so many friends gone….

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:57pm
  17. Long live duck dynasty

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:04pm
  18. hopefully we find a cure.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:56pm
  19. Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:32pm
  20. Shared with thanks on Rainbow Families <3 Vicky

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 5:17pm
  21. Let´s hope so,may this horror end up someday,but we know other dangerous diseases will always come up.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 7:31pm
  22. How much dose it pay?

    Posted on Monday, December 23, 2013 at 1:53am
  23. I hate to say it – but how many times can one promise hope and jerk it away over and over again. They promised a cure decades ago, I’m sick of hearing “next week, next month, next year”….

    Posted on Monday, December 23, 2013 at 3:37am