The medicine industry is booming, thanks to new technologies like bendable batteries and injectable bandages. While these new discoveries can treat cancer and repair organs, some researchers are working on improving older remedies. The US National Institutes of Health and Sanofi have combined antibodies into tri-specific antibodies targeting HIV infection.
“They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered.” [said Dr. Gary Nabel of Sanofi.]
“We’re getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody,”
HIV strains mutate faster than immune systems can adapt, making resistance almost futile. Animal trials saw a 100% success rate in monkeys, while human trials will begin next year.
“Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defences of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention.”
Further testing may prove the usefulness of tri-specific antibodies in other fields. The battle against HIV is far from over, but it’s safe to say we’re getting there, one antibody at a time.
Thanks to gene editing, we’ve seen much progress in hard-to-treat conditions. Sufferers of both muscular dystrophy and leukemia are experiencing a new variety of treatment options. Now, thanks to CRISPR, a renowned gene editing tool, researchers have increased HIV resistance in animals.
A minor proportion of people harbor a homozygous mutation in CCR5—a gene that encodes a receptor found on immune cells—that thwarts HIV’s attempts to get inside the cells. In an attempt to mimic this natural resistance, researchers mutated CCR5 in human fetal liver hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) and showed that the cells could block HIV infection after transplantation into mice.
Don’t let the medical jargon fool you — while the procedure may be complicated, the concept itself is a lot simpler. By replicating a naturally occurring genetic mutation, T-cells become more resistant to viruses. But results were slow, and researchers were patient, to say the least.
“The long-term reconstitution and secondary transplantation were time-consuming. It took us more than one-year monitoring of the mice to confirm the gene editing is robust in long-term HSCs,”
The study may not have been the first to incorporate gene editing, but it is the first to use CRISPR. We may not have engineered a complete cure (after all, we’ve only targeted mice), but finding one wouldn’t seem too improbable.
Moral of the story? Take risks. Sponsor a child genius. Our future depends on them.