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Zinc finger proteins put personalized HIV therapy within reach
Date:6/30/2008

ic DNA sequences in the CCR5 gene. The CCR5 protein is one of the two cell-surface receptors needed for HIV to gain entry into a T cell in order to replicate.

In this study, the zinc finger protein brings a DNA enzyme to the CCR5 gene to cut a portion of its sequence, but due to the repair process a new mutation arises in the CCR5 protein, rendering it non-functional. Without a functional CCR5 protein on the cell's surface, HIV cannot enter, presumably leading to resistance to HIV infection.

The researchers demonstrated this process in cell culture and in a mouse model. For the animal part of the study, the investigators used healthy human CD4 T cells and added DNA that expresses the zinc fingers, which modifies the CCR5 co-receptor. They grew the engineered cells in tissue culture flasks and transferred them into immune-deficient mice infected with HIV. "We followed them over time and showed that those mice that received the zinc-finger-treated cells showed less viral load than controls and improved CD4 counts," says Perez.

The researchers are planning a clinical trial in humans in which T cells from HIV patients would have their CCR5 gene deliberately knocked out. These modified T cells could then be infused back into the patients to re-establish their immune system and decrease their viral load.


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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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