A genetically engineered and harmless form of HIV may be able to help heart transplant patients better fight off their bodies' natural attempts to reject the transplanted organs, BBC News reports. HIV works inside human cells by integrating its genetic material into that of the host cells. Researchers at Cambridge University in England are studying ways to use an inactivated form of the virus to integrate key genes into the body's cells--specifically into the cells of transplanted hearts--that will prompt the cells to send chemical signals to shut down immune system responses to the newly transplanted organs. The technique also is being studied with other organs.
"I'd much rather HIV didn't exist, but it has given us a unique property, which is the capability of delivering genes into particular cells," said researcher Andrew Lever. Researchers are currently studying the engineered HIV in rats that have received heart transplants and plan additional animal studies.