Effective to fight against certain types of cancer, the technology of the cells CAR could also make it possible to eliminate the AIDS virus in people in remission under treatment. A new advance in gene therapy, on which many hopes are based.
As we know, HIV attacks the immune system and especially T cells, white blood cells essential for this system. So far, drug treatments have been successful in curbing the development of the virus in the body, but this one, after disappearing from the blood, remains hidden in "reservoirs".
In recent years, researchers have been studying gene therapy to completely eradicate the virus. The ultimate goal is to completely release the immune system from the virus by destroying quiescent cells that harbor HIV and serve as a reservoir for reinfection of the body as soon as antiviral treatment is stopped.
According to a study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, CAR-T blood stem cells, obtained thanks to a genetic modification, could be used to fight the immune system cells, T lymphocytes, infected with the AIDS virus, these famous tanks, and provide immunity for at least 2 years.
What are CAR-T cells?
Of the English "Chimeric Antigen Receptor", CAR-T cells are generally genetically modified T cells. A T lymphocyte is a white blood cell secreted by the thymus. It plays an important role in the immune system since it helps protect cells from germs and infections. If there is a microbe, T cells will collect with other types of white blood cells to eliminate it.
At the origin of the CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor) technique, these T lymphocytes are genetically modified to carry a gene coding to express on their surface a chimeric receptor to a specific cancer antigen in order to recognize cancerous cells and kill them. CAR-T cells are a particular hope in various cancers of the blood (leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma) and brain (glioblastoma).
In the case of HIV, researchers have designed hematopoietic layer cells that carry on their surface chimeric receptors directed against HIV and its particles that are expressed on the surface of infected cells. Because they are stem cells, these anti-HIV CAR cells go to the bone marrow and destroy the HIV-infected immune cells that are there.
Encouraging results in the long term
For the moment, the experiment has been successful in laboratory animals, but the anti-HIV CAR stem cells are rather promising in the eradication of reservoir cells infected by the AIDS virus.
In addition to destroying HIV-infected marrow cells, anti-HIV CAR stem cells survived 2 years in the marrow and continued to multiply to produce CAR cells directed against HIV for the next two years. followed.
Researchers see this as a way to create, in addition, a long-term immunity against the virus. However, this gene therapy only comes into play after the antiretroviral therapy is in remission and is likely to continue for some time, but may be interrupted.
According to the authors of the study, such a discovery could radically change the treatment strategy.