May 6, 2013
Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark are conducting clinical trials with humans to test a novel strategy as a cure for HIV. The technique includes unmasking reservoirs of virus hiding in resting immune cells and bringing the virus to the surface of the cells to be destroyed by the bodys natural immune system. In vitro studies of the technique were so successful that the Danish Research Council provided the funding for the clinical trials. According to Dr. Ole Søgaard, senior researcher at the Aarhus University Hospital and a member of the research team, early signs are promising.
The technique uses drugs called HDAC inhibitors that are commonly used to treat cancer, to drive the HIV from the patients DNA to the surface of infected cells. Søgaard is confident that they will be successful in activating HIV from the reservoirs; he sees the challenge as getting the patients immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. He noted that this depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems and how large a proportion of the virus is exposed. Fifteen patients are participating in the trial.
Five universities in Britain -- Oxford; Cambridge; Imperial College, London; University College, London; and Kings College, London -- have formed the Collaborative HIV Eradication of Reservoirs UK Biomedical Research Centre group (CHERUB) with the goal of finding an HIV cure. The group is researching the same technique as the researchers at Aarhus Hospital, but the research has not advanced to the clinical trial stage. CHERUB will combine the technique of releasing virus reservoirs with immunotherapy to give patients bodies a greater chance of destroying the virus. Also, their research is focusing on recently infected patients, as the researchers believe this will improve chances of a cure.