How Molecular “Scissors” Could Wipe Out HIV for Good
Last week I discussed a game-changing HIV treatment that causes the virus to self-destruct in the body.
Well, another company just made an astonishing HIV breakthrough of its own. And scientists are closer than ever to wiping out the virus for good.
It all started in 2007, when Dr. Gero Huetter performed a bone marrow transplant on an HIV-positive patient. Huetter used donor cells with a genetic mutation known as “CCR5 Delta 32.”
The result of the procedure: The patient became the first person in history to be fully cured of the HIV virus.
You see, while the CCR5 gene perpetuates HIV infection, the Delta 32 mutation suppresses it, creating a natural resistance to the virus.
So why haven’t other doctors performed this procedure, too?
Because the Delta 32 mutation is extremely rare.
But now, thanks to Sangamo Biosciences’ (Nasdaq: SGMO) new breakthrough treatment, there’s a simpler way to replicate the procedure’s effects. And the results are jaw dropping…
Sangamo Delivers HIV a Knockout Punch
Sangamo found a way to replicate the Delta 32 mutation using a special protein called Zinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN).
Essentially, ZFNs act as molecular “scissors” that cut cells at specific points. Thus, scientists can chop the CCR5 gene off of HIV-prone cells. Then when the cells heal, a new mutation blocks CCR5 from taking action.
As Sangamo’s CSO puts it: “When the cells repair the break generated by the ZFN… mutations are introduced specifically at the site of the break. We can use this to achieve one desired outcome: Knockout of the gene that’s been cleaved by the [ZFN] – in this case, the CCR5 gene.”
Most importantly, though, the company’s proving the treatment’s positive effects in the lab. And not just under a microscope…
From Infected to Cured in 12 Weeks
Basically, scientists injected ZFN-treated (HIV resistant) cells into mice with specially engineered human immune systems. Then they infected the mice with HIV to test the reaction.
Astonishingly, the mice that received the enhanced cells were able to eradicate all signs of the virus.
But will this actually work on humans?
Well, we’re about to find out.
Because Sangamo has been conducting clinical trials on human patients, as well – including some who haven’t been successful with traditional antiretroviral drugs.
And news broke yesterday that the company’s presenting the results at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Chicago on September 19.
Not all of the details have been released. But the lengthy title of the presentation suggests that the company was able to successfully suppress the viral load in human participants.
According to Seeking Alpha, “This is the ultimate test of any therapy attempting to confront HIV. [And it’s] the first indication that life without toxic and debilitating long-term antiviral therapy is possible.”
Needless to say, if Sangamo verifies positive results, it would completely revolutionize HIV treatment across the globe. And Sangamo’s shares would certainly receive a boost in the process. As always, we’ll be tracking the company’s progress very closely. So stay tuned.