A USC scientist has created a virus that hunts down HIV-infected cells, which could herald a breakthrough toward curing the disease.
Dr. Pin Wang's lentiviral vector latches onto HIV-infected cells, flagging them with what is called "suicide gene therapy" - allowing drugs to later target and destroy them.
"If you deplete all of the HIV-infected cells, you can at least partially solve the problem," said Wang, chemical engineering professor with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
The lentiviral vector approach to targeting HIV has the advantage of avoiding collateral damage, keeping cells that are not infected by HIV out of harm's way.
Wang said such accuracy has not been achieved by using drugs alone.
So far, the lentiviral vector has only been tested in culture dishes and has resulted in the destruction of about 35 percent of existing HIV cells.