Scientists have come up with an innovative genetic strategy for rendering T-cells resistant to HIV infection without affecting their normal growth and activity.
A team of researchers from Japan, Korea, and the U.S. developed an anti-HIV gene therapy method in which a bacterial gene called mazF is transferred into CD4+ T-cells. The MazF protein is an enzyme (an mRNA interferase) that destroys gene transcripts, preventing protein synthesis.
The design of this mazF gene therapy vector ensures that synthesis of the MazF protein is triggered by HIV infection. When HIV infects treated T lymphocytes, MazF is induced, blocking HIV replication and, essentially, making the T-cells HIV resistant.
"The potential of using vectors to express genes within a cell to block viral infection was first considered by David Baltimore in a strategy called 'intracellular immunization.' This study illustrates a unique way in which intracellular immunization can be achieved," said James M. Wilson, Editor-in-Chief, and Director of the Gene Therapy Program, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.
The finding has been published in Human Gene Therapy.