A new class of drugs is being researched to give high resistance or even immunity against HIV virus after observation on the viral receptors. This new method may eventually lead to the cure of HIV and AIDS in the near future.
DNA as the Key of the HIV Cure
Scientists are digging deeper in the aspect of human DNA and the viral receptors used by HIV to attach on immune cells. The specific genetic mutation known as CCR5 delta32 inactivates the CCR5 gene which denies CCR5 protein-making on certain people. Individuals lacking CCR5 proteins on their cells grant virtually high resistance against the prevalent HIV-1 virus type - no protein markers, no infection, no AIDS.
CCR5 delta32 genetic mutation is very rare and only found in a minority of people living in Northern Europe. Medical experts are now looking into it as very useful information to create drugs emulating the genetic mutation.
One example is the 2007 AIDS patient in Berlin, Germany, who underwent bone marrow transplant to treat a blood cancer called leukaemia. He and his physician looked for a specific donor who has CCR5 delta32 genetic mutation to treat both of his diseases. The Berlin man was cured from both leukaemia and AIDS due to the genetic mutation of his donor.
It is a type of protein found on white blood cells. The CCR5 gene is thought to have a role in the body's inflammatory responses to infection; however, what exactly this function is remains unclear. What is clear though is its role in AIDS. White blood cells are susceptible to HIV-1 type due to the receptors used by the virus attaching on the CCR5 gene to infect cells.
CCR5 delta32 Genetic Mutation
Certain people have inherited this genetic mutation which reduces CCR5 protein production. Individuals with this genetic mutation are highly resistant against HIV-1 wherein the virus is unable to attach to immune cells, giving their immune system a fighting chance against the virus. Speculated information regarding the CCR5 delta32 genetic mutation includes:
- One copy of CCR5 delta32 is found in 4 to 16 percent of people of European descent
- The genetic mutation may have been a natural selection among Northern Europeans
- Europeans with CCR5 delta32 are not resistant or immune against the Black Death
- Certain diseases such as smallpox in the ancient world may have caused the genetic mutation
- CCR5 delta32 is extremely rare among Africans and Asians
Planned Drugs on CCR5 and Receptor Antagonists
CCR5 receptor antagonists are a class of small molecules which inhibit entry points of HIV on immune cells and have potential therapeutic applications in the treatment of HIV infections.
Scientists are planning to engineer genetic mutation into a patient's blood cells to create natural resistance instead of finding donors with CCR5 delta32. Sangamo Biosciences, with the aid of academic collaborators and financial support from the California Stem Cell Bond, came up with a product called SB-728 which was specifically made to inactivate the CCR5 gene in human cells.
The treatment has reached clinical trials and current results appear to be encouraging. If the development of the drug becomes successful, a new game changer will lead the medical world from managing AIDS to ultimately curing the disease.
Watch the video below for an explanation on how scientists plan to imitate the CCR5 delta 32 mutation to possibly cure AIDS:
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