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Exploring the Latest Breakthroughs in HIV Research

JUL 19, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR

ImmTAVs Protein as a Cure for HIV 

In another study, headed by Professor Lucy Dorrell, MD, associate professor, senior clinical research fellow, honorary consultant at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford University, university researchers partnered with scientists from a biotechnology company in Oxfordshire, Immunocore Ltd, to “investigate the potency of novel engineered immune-mobilising T cell receptors-based drugs (‘ImmTAVs’), designed to clear HIV-infected cells,” according to a press release.
Like galectin-9, ImmTAVs exposes latent cells to the immune system, which then attacks and kills them, using what the researchers call the “kick and kill” approach. The two-headed protein ImmTAV can detect HIV protein cells through a genetically engineered T-cell receptor, and bind to CD3 T-cell co-receptors, which are found on the CD8+ T-cells that can kill infected cells.
ImmTAV was used on HIV-infected cells from patients who were successfully treated with ART. After using ImmTAV, researchers saw that the CD8+ T-cells killed latent CD4+ T-cells, the main immune system cell that is targeted by HIV, according to Professor Dorrell. When healthy CD8+ T-cells were used in addition to the ImmTAV treatment, “up to 85% of the infected cells were removed,” while the use of healthy CD8+ T-cells alone did not yield any effects, “confirming the essential role of the ImmTAV,” explained Professor Dorrell. She speculated, “This may be because, despite long-term ART, there is some degree of generalised malfunction in CD8+ T cells that has not been fully repaired.” She stated that ImmTAV cannot be a standalone cure for HIV, but can certainly play a key role in eradicating the virus.

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