New Study: Functional Cure for HIV/AIDS in Sight
American Gene Technologies uses cutting-edge gene therapy to attack virus.
Rockville, Maryland (PRWEB) October 01, 2013
Almost 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus since the beginning of the epidemic, and AIDS has claimed approximately 35 million lives, according to the World Health Organization. With nearly 36 million people around the globe living with HIV, American Gene Technologies International Inc. (AGT) is on a mission to use cutting-edge viral vectors and therapeutic genes to fight this epidemic.
Rockville, Maryland-based AGT has made significant progress toward their objective. CEO Jeff Galvin predicts the advanced techniques used by AGT should result in human trials of a functional cure for HIV/AIDS within five years, with clinical availability likely within the ten years.
"How quickly we get to declare victory will really depend on getting the resources to carry us through to the finish line," explained Galvin. "We've achieved proof-of-concept last April by demonstrating that we can successfully attack the disease in HIV-infected cells in lab experiments verified at the UMBC Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore."
AGT's revolutionary approach exploits the capabilities of HIV to turn the disease against itself on a genetic level. Unlike a typical virus that replicates by introducing genetic material into a cell but stops short of penetrating the cell's nucleus, HIV is a retrovirus which installs the AIDS virus genes in the nucleus of human cells through a process called "integration".
"Retroviruses are stealthy viruses that evolved over thousands of years. Once HIV delivers the AIDS genes into the nucleus, the virus makes copies of itself in small numbers over a long period of time in a way that it is able to evade detection by the patient's immune system until it is too late to stop it. The slow progression of the virus in the patient also results in many years that an infected person may infect others," says Galvin.
AGT’s approach is to use the capability of the HIV virus to carry "therapeutic" genes that counteract the AIDS genes into the same cells that were previously infected by AIDS. An empty version of HIV (one that has the AIDS disease genes removed) is filled instead with AGT’s therapeutic genes. When the modified virus is introduced to the patient the therapeutic genes shut down the function of the AIDS genes, thus lowering the replication of the virus as well as its ability to spread in the body. Additional genes delivered by AGT’s vector also help to prevent the AIDS virus from entering new cells, thus providing a lasting vaccine effect that can prevent reoccurrence of the disease.
The expected effect is that the viral count of HIV/AIDS in the patient will be lowered to the level where they are considered "functionally cured": their symptoms disappear (their immune system returns to normal), they are not able to infect others with the disease, and they no longer need lifetime (daily) treatment with antiretroviral drugs to lead a normal life.
AGT will test next in mice, then in higher primates. The first human testing should occur in two to three years, Galvin said. "We strongly believe a functional cure of HIV/AIDS is inevitable," said Galvin. "We have the technology to correct the disease at the cellular level. Now we need to continue to move our development through animal and human tests to prove the safety and efficacy of this approach. We hope to provide an alternate therapy for HIV/AIDS sufferers in the foreseeable future."
American Gene Technologies International Inc. (AGT) is developing therapies to treat cancers and other chronic human diseases. AGT was founded in 2007 to develop bio-safe, high-efficiency, multi-gene vectors for human gene delivery in-vivo. AGT’s products incorporate a novel, proprietary technology for the clinical application of therapeutic gene expression for the treatment of serious human diseases. Learn more at AmericanGene.com.
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