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UNMC researchers see path to eliminate HIV; genetic therapy shows promise in lab setting

Posted at 10:04 AM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 11:04:19-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Curing HIV is a goal researchers have been striving toward for decades, and now, they may be one step closer.

Scientists with UNMC say they’ve found a way to eliminate the infection — at least in a lab setting.

The study is being conducted by a team that included Howard Gendelman, M.D., Jonathan Herskovitz, Ph.D., Mahmudul Hasan, Bhavesh Kevadiya, Ph.D., and colleagues from the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience.

Dr. Kevadiya says while they're not to human testing yet, they are able to use human cells in the initial phases of testing.

“We’re collecting the cells from the human — from the patient — growing the labwork the same as what we have in our body," Kevadiya said.

Through an injection, the treatment would locate the infection on a molecular level, and cut it out of the DNA.

Dr. Gendelman, who has been studying HIV for decades, says this type of treatment could be the future of medical care.

“Each individual patient is unique, and these types of genetic therapies will be able to corner the specific aspects of that individual and deliver the best therapy with the best outcome," Gendelman said.

The research is ready to move on to animal testing next. Gendelman said, because HIV is not found in animals, they'll be using humanized mice — mice that have been engrafted with something human to make the research possible.

It could still be several years before this treatment is ready for patients, but the scientists say it's a step in the right direction.

“Someday we hope in the not too distant future, a total cure and eradication of HIV infection," Gendelman.

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