Potential Cure for AIDS – Nullbasic Therapy

David Harrich from the Queensland Institute of Medical says he has discovered a way to turn HIV against itself in human cells in the laboratory. Research said he modified a protein in HIV that normally helps the virus spread, into a “potent” inhibitor. The protein was introduced to immune cells targeted by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), where it slowed the reproduction of the virus after infection.

An HIV-infected person is said to have AIDS when their count of CD4 immune system cells drops below 200 per microlitre of blood or they develop any one of 22 opportunistic infections like cancer or tuberculosis as a result. Most people infected with HIV, if left untreated, would develop AIDS about 10 to 15 years later.

The new Nullbasic therapy, if proven, could see the spread of HIV halted indefinitely, bringing an end to the deadly condition, said Harrich. The virus might infect a cell but it wouldn’t spread. It would stay latent in its host and wouldn’t wake up, so it wouldn’t develop into AIDS and you would maintain a healthy immune system.

“I have never seen anything like it. The modified protein works every time,” said Harrich.

Commenting on the study, Frank Wegmann, an Oxford University HIV vaccine researcher, said “The immune cells of the blood are the primary cells which are infected by HIV and if you want to have a cure with this new protein, you need to … get every immune cell to make this protein,” he explained. This would require gene therapy – a complicated, rare, potentially dangerous and very expensive option.

The Australian researchers have partly tested that [gene therapy], but not really in patients or in infected people, only in the lab. Harrich’s team, whose study is published in the journal Human Gene Therapy, said the modified protein dubbed Nullbasic inhibited virus replication about eight- to ten-fold in some cells.

The experiments were conducted in a lab dish, and thorough testing on lab animals is needed before any human trials can begin. Animal trials are due to start this year.

Even if all goes according to plan, said Wegmann, a Nullbasic-based treatment was probably about 10 years off.