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Numerous medicines that have transformed HIV from a fatal disease to one that is just chronic have improved the lives of many people with the virus during the past 20 years. The "holy grail" of HIV research, however, continues to be a successful therapy or, at the at least, a way to maintain the body's viral load at a level that is so low that it is undetectable and non-transmissible without requiring continued medications.
By modifying type B white blood cells in mice to generate anti-HIV antibodies in reaction to the virus, researchers have now succeeded in achieving the latter.
When B cells reach adulthood, they leave the bone marrow and travel through the blood and lymphatic system to the rest of the body.
The novel method was created by Dr. Adi Barzel, a biochemist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and his colleagues.
Only a select few scientists, including us, according to Dr. Barzel, had previously been able to create B cells outside of the body.
We were the first to do this in the body in our work and to get these cells to produce the desired antibodies.
Dr. Barzel stated, "Viral carriers created from viruses that were genetically modified to not cause damage but just to transport the gene coding for the antibody into the body's B cells are used in the genetic engineering.
In this instance, we were also successful in properly introducing the antibodies into the B cell genome at the desired location.
"All model animals that received the medication responded, and their blood contained significant levels of the required antibodies.
"We generated the antibody from blood and tested it in a lab dish to make sure it was really effective at neutralizing the HIV virus."
The scientists used CRISPR, a technique that enables biologists to create precise cuts on DNA, allowing for the insertion, deletion, or replacement of genes at specific points to alter a genome.
Genetic engineer Alessio Nehmad, a co-author of the paper, said: "We integrate the potential of CRISPR to guide the introduction of genes into wanted places combined with the capability of viral carriers to transport desired genes to chosen cells.
We can therefore manipulate the B cells within the patient's body. Two viral carriers are employed.
"One carrier carries the required antibody, while the other carries the CRISPR system.
"The desired gene — the gene coding for the antibody against the HIV virus, which causes AIDS — is introduced when the CRISPR cuts in the desired site in the genome of the B cells."
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The team claims that because there isn't a genetic cure for HIV right now, there are a lot of research opportunities.
"We created a new treatment that may fight the virus with a one-time injection, with the potential to significantly improve the patients' condition," said Dr. Barzel in his conclusion.
We are using the disease's very root to fight it by stimulating and encouraging the modified B cells to divide when they come into contact with the virus.
We have developed the first ever drug that can evolve in the body and beat viruses in the "arms race" because, in addition, if the virus changes, the B cells will alter proportionately to combat it.
The same strategy might be modified to combat other infectious diseases and tumors like those of the cervix, head, and neck that are brought on by viruses, in addition to paving the way for a better treatment for AIDS in people.
The journal Nature Biotechnology published the complete study results.
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