An innovative, customized HIV treatment that has proved to be more effective against the virus than the anti-retroviral cocktails currently used has been developed by scientists from McGill University.
The new therapy developed by Dr. J-P. Routy of McGill University and Dr. R. Sékaly from the Université de Montréal has successfully passed its first clinical trial.
It uses dendritic cells, which are removed from each HIV-infected patient and subsequently multiplied in-vitro.
"This is a vaccine made for the individual patient - an "haute couture" therapy, instead of an off-the-rack treatment," said Dr Routy.
Dendritic cells present material from invading viruses on their surface, allowing the rest of the immune system to identify and attack the invaders.
"They are the "grand conductors" of the immune response. With them, you push the immune system, in all its functions, at the same time," said Routy.
In the current trial, dendritic cells were exposed to a sample of HIV RNA (ribonucleic acid) specific to the patient involved. This exposure encouraged the cells to develop defences specific to that viral strain
The modified cells - called AGS-004 - were then injected back into the patients.
The researchers also measured increased levels of CD8-lymphocytes in the patients - the "attack" cells of the human immune system that the treatment is intended to mobilize, thus confirming that the intervention was targeted and controlled.
The results were published recently in Clinical Immunology.