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Breakthrough Research Brings HIV Cure Closer

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(Photo credit should read DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit should read DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)

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BRONX, N.Y. (CBS Hartford) – Researchers may have found a way to eradicate the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) using a different plan of attack.

Roughly nine million adults around the world are living with HIV and receive highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). New findings presented at the yearly Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University demonstrate that radioimmunotherapy (RIT) could potentially destroy HIV-infected cells.

“There have been major strides in HIV treatment that slow disease progression, but we’re still searching for a permanent cure,” said study leader Ekaterina Dadachova, Ph.D., professor of radiology and of microbiology & immunology in a press release. “To combat HIV, we need a method that will completely eliminate all HIV-infected cells without damaging non-infected cells.”

Earlier work by Dadachova showed that RIT could successfully target and destroy human immune cells infected with HIV.  The research presented at RSNA builds from that work.

Dadachova along with fellow researchers administered RIT to blood samples from 15 HIV patients treated with HAART.  They found that RIT was able to specifically kill lymphocytes treated with HAART and also reduce HIV infection to undetectable levels in the majority of samples.

“We found that radioimmunotherapy could kill HIV-infected cells both in blood samples that received antiretroviral treatment  and within the central nervous system, demonstrating RIT offers real potential for being developed into an HIV cure,” Dadachova stated.

The researchers also looked to see whether the RIT approach can reach HIV-infected cells in the brain and central nervous system since current anti-retroviral therapy drugs doe not efficiently penetrate the blood-brain barrier.  The same radiolabeled antibodies used in earlier experiments could also eliminate HIV-infected cells in the brain without damaging the blood-brain barrier.

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