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Could LASER ART Be a Game-Changer in HIV Treatment?

Could a new process called long-acting slow effective release antiretroviral therapy, or LASER ART, be a game-changer in treating HIV?

Common HIV/AIDS myths still exist and are often spread among non-medical professionals, which makes it imperative that new treatment options are shared with the public and used to dispel HIV/AIDS misconceptions. Treatments options such as antiretroviral therapy, or ART, have been life-saving in terms of treating the disease, but the requirement of taking a daily pill has proven to be difficult for some patients. Now, researchers have made a recent breakthrough that may make adhering to ART much easier via a process called long-acting slow effective release antiretroviral therapy (LASER ART).

The application process for LASER ART therapy makes it a game-changer. With LASER ART, instead of taking the medication daily, patients could change to monthly dosing, which can improve administration compliance rates because patients are less likely to miss a monthly dosage.

LASER ART is a process that unlocks storage areas in cells where drugs can stay for extended periods, which, in turn, lengthens dosing intervals. With this application method, physicians can potentially administer drugs over prolonged periods of time and decrease the dosage amount. Currently, patients receive increasing dosages of medication with each injection in an HIV/AIDS treatment series.

According to the therapy’s creators, as an injectable, LASER ART can reach body tissues that have previously been inaccessible to conventional drugs, such as tissue sanctuaries where the virus has remained hidden. With LASER ART, the drugs can reach specific destinations in blood and tissues and remain there. This change alone could be revolutionary for how HIV/AIDS is treated because drugs would continue fighting the disease by attacking hidden areas of growth.

To remain in the blood and tissues and thus, prevent drug crystals from being destroyed by the liver and then flushed through the kidneys and urine, scientists combined the pharmaceutical agent URMC-099 with LASER ART. Though it has no antiviral effect by itself, URMC-099 acts as an adjunctive neuroprotective therapy. Combining LASER ART with URMC-099 enhances viral suppression.

In their study, the researchers showed that the combination of URMC-99 and LASER ART allowed URMC-99 to transport LASER ART to cells, while also sequestering drug crystals within cells, thus protecting the chemical composition of URMC-099 plus LASER ART from degrading. Once the combination is in the cell, it dissolves slowly, eventually releasing the active ingredients into the blood stream.

The researchers believe that formulating drug cocktails with URMC-099 and reviewing whether these mergers can extend the half-lives of other ARTs is the next practical move.

The ultimate goal is to marry URMC-099 with medications that have been restricted for human use due to bioavailability and the high frequency by which patients need to take the medication, as well as the high dosage. More research into these possible advances could have a global impact on HIV treatment regimens and likely transform conventional methods of treatment dosing.

New methods of administering treatment and thus increasing adherence to medications are particularly important as reports have shown that although overall national rates of HIV infection are decreasing, rates among certain cohorts of patients, such as young gay & bisexual men, are increasing.

Kayla Matthews is a health and information technology writer who contributes to publications like Motherboard, insideBIGDATA and SandHill. To read more posts by Kayla, connect with her on her blog Productivity Bytes.