“Kick and Kill” Strategy Eliminates HIV Cells in 40% of Mice

Investigators used an updated “kick and kill” strategy to expose and eliminate dormant infected cells in HIV-positive mice.

For people living with HIV, antiretroviral therapy is typically used to hinder the virus’s progression. However, HIV can evade antiretrovirals by lying dormant in CD4+ T cells, thereby inhibiting the CD8 T cells from targeting and destroying the HIV-infected cells.

A UCLA-led research team is developing a “kick and kill” strategy to eliminate HIV-infected cells in mice. The strategy coaxes out the dormant infected cells so they can be attacked by the immune system.

In a study recently published in Nature Communications, the investigators reinvigorated the “kick and kill” strategy they piloted in 2017. While the mice were receiving antiretrovirals, the investigators used SUW133 to reveal all the HIV-infected cells. Then, they injected natural healthy killer cells into the mice’s bloodstreams to kill the infected cells.

The combined efforts of the SUW133 and injected killer cells eliminated the HIV in 40% of infected mice. This is a significant improvement over the 2017 study, in which up to 25% of HIV-infected cells were killed.

This study also examined the mice’s spleens, a common hiding place for latent HIV-positive cells. When no HIV was detected there, they concluded that the infected cells had been successfully eliminated.

The combined strategies of the protein kinase C modulator and latency reversing agent SUW133, and allogeneic human peripheral blood natural killer cells worked better together than independently.

The investigators’ next goal is to kill 100% of the mice’s HIV-infected cells. They also plan to expand the preclinical study into nonhuman primates.