Temple Univ. team makes breakthrough in HIV-AIDS research

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Local researchers have made a breakthrough in attacking HIV, and it could be the first step toward a cure.

Currently, HIV has been difficult to stop because it doesn't just float around in the bloodstream - it inserts itself into someone's DNA.

Current drugs won't take it out. But for the first time, researchers at Temple University have been able to eliminate it from human cells.

Dr. Kamel Khalili from Temple University School of Medicine explains, "The current therapy for AIDS does not eliminate viruses, but rather suppresses virus replication."

Dr. Khalili says current drugs do a good job of keeping patients alive, but they don't cure HIV-AIDS.

If there's a break in taking the drugs, the virus starts building again.

That's what happened with a baby in Mississippi. Experts had previously said the baby was "cured" of AIDS.

So instead, Dr. Khalili's team has created a protein combo that targets and attaches itself to the HIV in a cell's DNA. It then cuts out the infected part. The cell repairs itself and becomes a healthy cell again.

"Precise, fast, and has no harm to the cells," Dr. Khalili said.

The process has worked on human cells in the laboratory, and animal tests have begun, to make sure it kills all the HIV.

Dr. Khalili says the next challenge is to determine the best way to give it to humans. It may take several years, but his team believes it will work... and may even go a step further.

He says, "We hope that the technology that we have developed can also help protect individuals - uninfected individual - from HIV."

The results of the Temple team's work were published Monday by the National Academy of Science, and it's getting a lot of attention.

Dr. Khalili believes the process will also work on other viral infections, and possibly for cancer.
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