Harvard researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute announced late last month that they have successfully halted in laboratory environment the reproduction of the virus that causes AIDS.
Wayne Marasco, the assistant professor of medicine heading the research team, said his group has developed antibodies that prevent the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from replicating itself.
"With this particular treatment, it's not a cure," Marasco said yesterday. "It's a treatment strategy as it is now."
Marasco was quick to point out that the group has only halted HIV reproduction in tissue culture, and that testing on humans requires approval from the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
The antibody structures are genetically based, and Marasco said they could mean a future for gene therapy.
"We're a long way off [from a cure]," Marasco said. "But the data looks quite good. It could be the beginning of a genetic-based strategy to see if we can combat HIV."
Marasco's team took antibodies the body produces when HIV infiltrates it, created an antibody against a particular molecule that forms part of the HIV's outside coat and developed one that sticks to any of those molecules made by the HIV once it has attacked its host T cell.
Once locked onto the molecule, the antibody effectively prevents HIV from making copies of itself.
Marasco's research team--which includes postdoctoral fellows Si-Yi Chen and Yousef Khouri and Graduate student Jessamyn Bagley--announced its finding in the June 21 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The AIDS disease develops when HIV attacks and destroys the white
blood cells, centerpieces of the body's defenseagainst infections.
With weekend immune systems, victims areespecially vulnerable to diseases like pneumoniaand colds which ultimately kill them