Last week the company Sangamo Biosciences announced good results from their HIV/AIDS trial in which they genetically altered patients’ own T-cells. CIRM is following this trial closely, since it’s the precursor to one being developed by a team of CIRM-funded researchers led by John Zaia at City of Hope that includes Sangamo.
According to Discover Magazine, the company reported last week:
The goal was to see if receiving these altered cells would let patients go off their anti-retroviral drugs. The results, reported at a recent conference in Chicago, were mixed—the cells didn’t always survive long in the fifteen people enrolled. But two patients saw their HIV levels drop 10-fold, and one patient who stopped his anti-retrovirals first saw a spike in virus levels but then had them decline to undetectable levels.
The work funded by CIRM is a next generation version of this trial. In both cases, Sangamo’s technology is used to snip the DNA of cells taken from a patient’s bone marrow. Those snips introduce a mutation in a gene called CCR5, which makes the protein that the HIV virus uses to enter a cell. No CCR5 gene means HIV can’t infect the cells.
Doctors then reintroduce those cells into the patient. The idea is that the patient will then be resistant to the HIV in their bloodstream and eventually can go off drugs. In the recently reported study, the team altered the adult T-cells, which would supply a finite number of resistant T cells. The CIRM study will be altering the blood-forming stem cells, which give rise to T-cells, in hopes of creating a more permanent supply of HIV-resistant T-cells.
This video gives more information about the goal of the CIRM-funded team: