UCLA Develops Stem Cells That Kill HIV in Mice

By Neal Broverman

Originally published on Advocate.com April 13 2012 7:50 PM ET

Advancing on 2009 findings, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, announced this week that stem cells can be genetically engineered to attack HIV-infected cells in a living organism.

Three years ago, UCLA researchers said they believed stem cells could be engineered to kill HIV. Now, their findings are working on living creatures — mice.

"We believe that this study lays the groundwork for the potential use of this type of an approach in combating HIV infection in infected individuals, in hopes of eradicating the virus from the body," says lead investigator Scott Kitchen, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in a statement.

After implanting engineered stem cells into virus-affected mice, the researchers found the cells developed into a large population of "mature, multi-functional HIV-specific CD8 cells that could specifically target cells containing HIV proteins."

HIV may mutate slower in mice than humans, so researchers are working on ways to combat that difference.

"We believe that this is the first step in developing a more aggressive approach in correcting the defects in the human T cell responses that allow HIV to persist in infected people," Kitchen says. Read more here.