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Researchers Taking New Approach to HIV Treatment

Researchers Taking New Approach to HIV Treatment

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingResearchers are working on a new approach to treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In the city on the forefront of the fight against aids researchers met to discuss an unprecedented approach to combat the disease.

David Baltimore, Ph.D., Nobel Prize Scientist: "If we can do this, it opens up a way of thinking about infectious disease therapy that has been sort of inconceivable until recently."

Nobel Prize winner Dr. David Baltimore says the experimental treatment involves the combination of three controversial therapies

Dr. Baltimore: "We trying to combine gene therapy with stem cell therapy with immunotherapy, and it's a big order (laughs)."

A big order, but it's underway. A safety trial involving ten patients infected with HIV shows promise. Researchers inserted antiviral genes into blood stem cells and then reintroduced them into the body. As these blood cells develop, the gene protects the cell against HIV. That gene was still present in patients' bodies up to four years later.

Jeff Sheehy, AIDS & HIV Advisor to Mayor Newsom: "What it does show, it shows a way that stem cell therapy to make a difference in my life and the other 40 million people living in the world with HIV."

Jeff Sheehy is and HIV and AIDS advisor to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Jeff Sheehy: "There's a possibility for a patient to control the HIV virus using their own immune system so it's actually the basis of an immune based therapy."

Researchers involved in the study believe this new approach could dramatically change how patients are treated.

Ronald T. Mitsuyasu, M.D., UCLA AIDS Institute: "The beauty of stem cells is that they are self-replicating and therefore it could be a one-time therapy."

Patients infected with HIV need to take daily drug cocktails for the rest of their lives. This may be a better idea.

Dr. Mitsuvasu: "It would be preferable, there would be fewer side effects related to treatment, the inconvenience factor, the problem with resistance, all hopefully will be avoided by using the stem cell approach."

A second study is underway to determine just how protective this therapy can be.

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