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Category: Infectious Diseases
New findings presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America showed a significant breakthrough in HIV research. A team of scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine testing the efficacy of radioimmunotherapy on patients treated with antiretroviral therapy have successfully destroyed HIV-infected cells, giving new life to the hope of curing HIV infection.
Led by lead author Ekaterina Dadachova, Ph.D., the team was looking at the shortcomings of highly active antiretroviral therapy when it came to curing HIV. While HAART succeeded in suppressing the replication and spread of the virus, it failed to completely eradicate the cells. Scientists believe that leftover infected cells remained in the body after treatment, preventing a permanent cure.
"In an HIV patient on HAART, drugs suppress viral replication, which means they keep the number of viral particles in a patient's bloodstream very low. However, HAART cannot kill the HIV-infected cells," explained Dadachova, professor of radiology, microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
During their study, the researchers carried out blood testing using RIT on samples from HIV patients who were previously treated with HAART. Previously used to treat cancer, RIT uses cloned cells to determine and counteract antigens that cause an immune response in the body. Once injected into the patient's bloodstream, the cloned cells travel to the targeted infected cells where the radiation therapy is applied.
"In RIT, the antibodies bind to the infected cells and kill them by radiation. When HAART and RIT are used together, they kill the virus and the infected cells, respectively," continued Dadachova.
Conducting their lab tests using collaborative therapy, the team discovered that RIT reduced the blood samples' levels of HIV infection to undetectable numbers.
"The elimination of HIV-infected cells with RIT was profound and specific," Dadachova affirmed.
Moving forward, their next step is clinical trials with HIV patients using the combination of RIT and HAART treatments.
Treatment of the brain and nervous system
A large concern was the therapy's effectiveness on the brain and central nervous system of HIV patients. While antiretroviral therapy can penetrate part of the brain, it does not do so completely. As a result, the infected cells can still wreak havoc on cognitive brain functions, causing disorders and a decline in mental health.
According to Dadachova's research, RIT killed all HIV-infected cells within the brain and the nervous system.
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