SEATTLE – Using stem cell research, scientists at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are attempting to not only fight the HIV virus that causes AIDS, but to cure it.
“Five years ago, nobody was talking about curing HIV,” Dr. Keith Jerome said.
The idea is to extract stem cells from an HIV-positive patient, modify them so they are resistant to the virus and then put them back in the patient.
“So if the person is HIV-infected, we can provide these cells,” Jerome said Monday. “Those cells are now resistant to the virus, they can grow up and replenish that patient with healthy cells that don`t give the virus anyplace to grow,” he said.
Jerome and Dr. Hans Peter Kiem are using a two-pronged approach – stem cell transplanting and cell modification – to try to find the cure.
“We’ve never before had the ability to go in and modify within a living cell or a particular gene within that cell,” Jerome said.
HIV research with stem cells has been limited in the past to trying to find a stem cell donor who is resistant to the virus – that can be rare. But altering the patient’s own stem cells opens the door for almost anyone who’s infected.
“That means we can ideally use this treatment for all HIV patients, that’s really our goal,” Kiem said.
Thanks to a $20 million federal grant, Jerome and Kiem have begun investigating this procedure, which could lead to a new era in the battle against HIV.
“Now that we see a path forward we’re going to take that path and we’re going to move forward and try to beat through those roadblocks just as fast as we can,” Jerome said.
Scientists say while this is a new and exciting route in the fight against HIV, it could be years before results are known.
Curing the HIV virus hasn’t been much of a thought in previous years. It would be great to be able to cure something that has killed so many. The new approaches that are being tried sound promising.
I don’t want to get my hopes up, but with all this good news floating around about the success of so many different HIV tests and research, it is the closest we’ve come yet. Let’s hope the doctors are on the right track and I’ll be able to post that HIV is curable