The findings were published online Feb. 15 in the journal Nature Medicine.
The study was a "phase II" trial, meaning that a third study would be necessary before the treatment could be approved.
There's more to be done, however, Mitsuyasu said.
"We need to figure out how best to perfect this approach. There are a lot of things that we could potentially do," he said. But in the big picture, the research represents "the first clear indication in a randomized and controlled study that there is a biologic effect of gene therapy" for HIV, he added.
The new approach holds promise, said Rowena Johnston, vice president of research at the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) in New York City.
"One of the striking successes of this particular approach is its apparent safety, which is no small matter given the history so far of gene therapy interventions," she said. "Gene therapy will probably represent an exciting new frontier that will receive increasing attention in the coming years. There are so many unexplored avenues to pursue with the real potential to provide a lasting solution for HIV/AIDS."
To learn more about gene therapy, visit the Human Genome Project Information.
SOURCES: Ronald Mitsuyasu, M.D., director of the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Clinical AIDS Research and Education; Rowena Johnston, Ph.D., vice president of research, Foundation for AIDS Research, New York City. Feb. 15, 2009, Nature Medicine, online
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