London: A ground-breaking treatment to prevent HIV by genetically altering blood cells so the virus cannot invade them has shown promise in initial tests.
For the treatment, white blood cells most prone to infection by HIV, called CD4+ cells, are taken from someone with HIV, reports New Scientist.
In the lab, these cells are altered to sabotage a gene called CCR5, before being returned to the patient.
After the treatment, these cells become impossible for the virus to infect because CCR5 makes the molecular ‘door-handle’ by which HIV enters cells.
"This is the first example of genetic editing to introduce a disease-resistant gene in patients," said lead investigator Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
The preliminary tests in nine patients have revealed that a year after the treatment, the altered cells had increased in number.
In some patients, the cells had colonised areas of the gut and rectum mucosal linings where HIV multiplies, and where native CD4+ cells are usually depleted.
The results were presented at a virus conference in Boston.