Scientists Develop ‘Killer’ T-Cell That Slays HIV with Ease


In addition to the bone marrow transplant surprise I posted about last week, there’s a new strategy in the fight against HIV, from researchers in the UK. Scientifically developed “super” T-cells:

“Beginning with a particularly potent T-cell collected from a patient in 1996, Sewell’s team sought to redesign the receptor molecule that recognizes [the protein] SL9. This was done by letting one of evolution’s guiding principles – survival of the fittest – take hold. In this case, the researchers selected for mutated receptors that grabbed the tightest to SL9. In a Petri dish, the customised T-cells outperformed normal T-cells, slaying virus-infected cells with ease. The pimped up T-cells produced high levels of chemicals, called cytokines, which are indicative of a successful immune response. The engineered cells also recognised variations on SL9 that befuddle normal killer T-cells. Sewell’s team is preparing to test the cells in mice that have been engineered to produce human immune cells, capable of becoming infected with HIV. If those tests go well, his team hopes to try the approach in HIV-infected people.”

One concern is that the super T-cell might attack human proteins as well as SL9, presenting a range of new issues.