Researchers have found a way to make T cells that can keep HIV at bay in the laboratory – they achieved this by attaching HIV-resistant genes to existing T cells, the cells that are normally the main target of the disease when it reaches its later stages and begins to spread even more rapidly.

The gene used by HIV to enter the cells was isolated and altered to develop resistance within them to the disease – these minor alterations to the T cell can effectively prevent HIV from destroying the immune system and progressing to the AIDS stage.

Not only were the genes themselves affected but activation of a particular receptor in the T cell also occurred – the idea now is to use this process in the human body to create cells that resist HIV.

Those infected with HIV need to take several medications daily in order to avoid progression of the disease – if this gene therapy is to be developed into a viable substitute it will have to be tested, not just in a lab as thus far but clinically.

It is important to note that this is not a cure for HIV – a person given the modified T cells would still have the disease, but the inserted cells would simply halt the progression to prevent it from reaching the fatal AIDS stage. It could still be passed onto others.

The disease has always been tricky because it continues to change inside the body, hence the need for a combination of medications to keep it at bay. This study was part of an attempt to find the right combination of genetic modifications that could perform this process and alleviate the need for daily treatment.

There are two proteins within T cells that are known to be the locations at which the disease enters, and in fact some of the latest medications involve affecting this process. A very limited number of people have a gene that is already HIV resistant, thus preventing its spread throughout their bodies – this is another angle scientists have used to try and modify normal T cells and develop the same resistance within them.

The findings of this study were particularly significant and mark a large step in the right direction of fighting HIV through genetic research.