Tel Aviv University offers unique AIDS treatment

A new study from Tel Aviv University proposes a one-time treatment for AIDS – a one-time vaccine or treatment for HIV patients. The study looked at the engineering of type B white blood cells in the patient’s body to secrete HIV antibodies in response to the virus.

The study was led by Dr. Adi Barzel and his student Alessio Nehmad, both from the George S. Wise School of Life Sciences and the Dotan Center for Advanced Therapies in conjunction with Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov).

Published in the journal Nature, the study was conducted in collaboration with other researchers from Israel and the United States. Dr. Barzel explains: “Until now, only a few scientists, and we among them, have been able to engineer B cells outside the body. , and in this study, we were the first to do this in the body and cause these cells to generate the desired antibodies.

Genetic engineering is done with viral carriers derived from viruses that have been engineered to not cause harm but only deliver the gene coded for the antibody into the body’s B cells.

“Furthermore, in this case, we were able to precisely introduce the antibodies into a desired site in the B cell genome. All of the model animals that received the treatment responded and had large amounts of the desired antibody in their blood. . We produced the antibody from the blood and made sure it was actually effective in neutralizing the HIV virus in the lab dish.”

Gene editing was done with CRISPR, a technology based on a bacterial immune system against viruses. Alessio Nehmad says, “We incorporate the ability of a CRISPR to direct the introduction of genes into desired sites as well as the abilities of viral carriers to deliver desired genes to desired cells. Thus, we are able to engineer the B cells inside the patient’s body. .

We use two viral carriers from the AAV family, one carrier codes for the desired antibody and the second carrier codes for the CRISPR system. When CRISPR cuts the desired site in the B cell genome, it directs the introduction of the desired gene: the gene coding for the antibody against the HIV virus, which causes AIDS. treatment for AIDS, the research opportunities are therefore vast. Dr Barzel concludes: “We have developed an innovative treatment that can defeat the virus with a single injection, with the potential to bring about a considerable improvement in the condition of patients.

When the modified B cells encounter the virus, the virus stimulates them and encourages them to divide, so we use the very cause of the disease to fight it.

Moreover, if the virus changes, the B cells will also change accordingly in order to fight it, so we have created the first drug that can evolve in the body and defeat viruses in an “arms race”.

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