New study heralds potential AIDS cure
SYDNEY - Agence France-PresseAn Australian scientist said yesterday he had discovered how to turn the HIV virus against itself to stop it progressing to AIDS, describing it as a major breakthrough in finding a cure for the disease.
David Harrich, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, said he had successfully modified a protein in HIV that the virus needed to replicate and instead made it “potently” inhibit virus growth.
Protein works every time
“I have never seen anything like it. The modified protein works every time,” said Harrich. “If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are many hurdles to clear, we’re looking at a cure for AIDS.”
Harrich said the modified protein, which he had named Nullbasic, had shown a “remarkable” ability to arrest HIV growth in a lab environment and could have exciting implications both in curbing AIDS and treating existing HIV sufferers. He described it as “fighting fire with fire”.
“The virus might infect a cell but it wouldn’t spread,” said Harrich of his study, published in the latest edition of the journal Human Gene Therapy. “You would still be infected with HIV, it’s not a cure for the virus, but the virus would stay latent, it wouldn’t wake up, so it wouldn’t develop into AIDS,” he added. “With a treatment like this, you would maintain a healthy immune system.”
The majority of people infected with HIV, if left untreated, may not progress to AIDS for 10-15 years or longer, according to the UN. Antiretroviral treatments can prolong this further still.
The new Nullbasic gene therapy, if proven, could see the deterioration from HIV to AIDS halted indefinitely, bringing an end to the deadly condition.