News Feature | January 21, 2014

NIH Develops Toxin That Kills HIV Cells

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By Cassandra Leger

January 16, 2014 - The NIH stated that a team of scientists from the NIH and the University of North Carolina have developed an effective toxin which can be used to control the spread of HIV infected cells in a human host. The study was conducted using lab mice. The toxin, labeled 3B3-PE38, was initially developed n 1998 and genetically altered for the study.

According to the NIH report, the study was conducted on a group of 40 mice that had been bioengineered to have a human immune system rather than that of a mouse. Afterwards they were injected with the HIV virus and separated into two groups. Scientists gave both groups four weeks of treatment using antiretroviral drugs. After four weeks one group was given an additional two weeks of therapy using the HIV-specific immunotoxin to compliment the current therapy, while the other group continued antiretroviral treatment alone.

The toxin infiltrates the cells that have been infected with HIV and shuts down the process of protein synthesis and encourages death of the cell. The toxin’s ability to keep the virus from reproducing promotes and keeps HIV in a state of remission. According to the scientists, the use of both the toxin and the antiretroviral drugs will reduce the reproduction of the cells enough to control them, while also killing the HIV infected cells that are in the process of producing the virus in the host’s organs. This type of combination therapy was also researched in 2008 in Puerto Rico by Edward Berger Ph.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and found to be a significant improvement in HIV treatment.

The findings of the study are a leap in the study of HIV. However, the researchers stated that they would still have to conduct more studies and a few clinical trials in order to confirm their findings and present the combination therapy to the FDA for approval.