Researchers are developing a potential treatment for HIV based on a single injection

B cell transplantation designed ex vivo to secrete broadly neutralizing antibodies has shown efficacy in disease models.

The technology has been used to rule out unwanted genes or to recover and insert desired genes. Photo: Shutterstock.

IN research was discovered in Nature Biotechnology, which shows that this new and unique treatment for AIDS, which can become a vaccine for patients with HIVwhere after studying the engineering of type B white blood cells in the patient’s body to secrete anti-HIV in response to the virus.

IN researchheld at the University of Tel Aviv (Israel), was directed by Adi Barzel d PhD student Alessio Nehmad, both from the George C. Wise School of Neurobiology, Biochemistry and Biophysics, in collaboration with Sourasky Medical Center. The study was conducted in collaboration with additional researchers from Israel and the United States.

He uses the technique developed in his laboratory type B white blood cells which would be genetically modified in the patient’s body to secrete neutralizing antibodies against the virus HIV which causes the disease. The cells are a type of white blood cell responsible for generating antibodies against viruses, bacteria and more. The cells are formed in the bone marrow. When mature, B cells pass into the blood and lymphatic system and from there to various parts of the body.

“So far, only a few scientists, including us, have been able to design B cells outside the body, and in this study we were the first to do this in the body and make these cells generate the desired antibodies. viruses that are designed not to cause harm, but only to deliver the gene encoding the antibody to the B cells in the body, ‚ÄĚsays Barzel.

In addition, he adds, “in this case, we were able to accurately insert the antibodies at the desired location in the B cell genome. All the model animals that were treated responded and had large amounts of the desired antibody. We produced an antibody from blood and make sure that it is actually effective in neutralizing the virus HIV in the laboratory dish.

Gene editing was performed with CRISPR. This is a technology based on the bacterial immune system against viruses. Bacteria use CRISPR systems as a type of molecular search engine to locate viral sequences and cut them out to deactivate them. Two biochemists who had discovered the complex defense mechanism, Emmanuel Charpentier and Jennifer Dudna, managed to divert the path of cleavage of any DNA of their choice.

Since then, the technology has been used to rule out unwanted genes or to recover and insert desired genes. Dudna and Charpentier received international recognition when they won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.

These include the ability of CRISPR to direct gene delivery to desired sites, along with the ability of viral carriers to deliver desired genes to desired cells. Therefore, we can design B cells in the patient’s body.

“We used two virus carriers from the AAV family, one carrier code for the desired antibody and the other code carrier for the CRISPR system. When CRISPR cuts the desired site in the genome of B cells, it directs the introduction of the desired gene: a gene encoding an antibody against the virus HIVwhich causes AIDS, “said Alessio Nehmad.

Currently, the researchers explain, there is no genetic treatment for AIDS, so the possibilities for research they are huge. “We have developed an innovative treatment that can defeat the virus with a single injection, with the potential to make a huge improvement in patients. When constructed B cells collide with the virus, the virus stimulates them and encourages them to divide.” , so we use the very cause of the disease to fight it, “says Barzel.

In addition, “if the virus changes, the B cells will also change accordingly to fight it, which is why we created the first drug that can grow in the body and defeat viruses in the ‘arms race.’

In the last two decades, the lives of many AIDS patients have improved as a result of treatments that change the disease from fatal to chronic. However, there is still a long way to go before a treatment can be found that will provide patients with a lasting cure. One possible way to do this would be with an injection, which begins to take shape in Barzel’s laboratory.

Based on this study, “we can hope that in the next few years we will be able to produce a cure for AIDS, other infectious diseases and some cancers caused by a virus, such as cervical cancer, head and neck cancer and more “, he concludes.

Source consulted here.