A new development in the fight against AIDS has come up and it seems to have a lot of potential. We have already developed antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that can drastically reduce the amount of HIV in the blood, but this never seems to cure the patient. The main reason being that there are small “reservoir” cells in the blood stream that carry the virus and lie dormant for a long time. These hard to detect cells then reactivate and redistribute HIV once drug therapies have worn off.
Scientists have not only found a way to “wake up” these dormant reservoir cells so they can be detected and eliminated, but also prime healthy immune cells to destroy the infected ones. The new GS-9620 drug binds to immune cells through a toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7). This induces cell replication in HIV favoring white blood cells, leading to dormant cells activating and producing more of the virus, but also taking these cell out of hiding.
Experiments have been run on monkeys with similar diseases and drugs. Introduction of ARV drugs drastically dropped HIV levels followed by a sharp rise when the GS-9620 drug was introduced right after. This rise is exactly what researchers were looking for, as it shows that reservoir cells are activating and are now visible to the immune system. After this drug therapy, the monkeys showed drops in HIV levels around the body, although scientists still don’t know for sure how these reservoir cells are being eliminated. This research are being be expanded upon (since small clinical trials on HIV-infected people are starting), sending us a lot closer to finally finding a reliable cure for AIDS.
-Dan Staiculescu (Group C)