Despite decades of prevention efforts, new HIV infections continue to occur in California, nationally and worldwide making the need for novel approaches to the treatment of HIV infection greater than ever.
AIDS researchers at UCLA believe that RNA interference, a means to block the function of specific genes in the human body may be used to block HIV infection. The approach is designed to mimic the effects of a naturally occurring mutation in some people who are resistant to HIV infection. When RNA interference is introduced into a stem cell, its blocking activity will be present throughout the life of the stem cell and all resulting blood cells. This methodology may provide a lifelong resistance for HIV infection.
Other investigators at UCLA are exploring the potential to enhance anti-viral immunity by genetically manipulating stem cells. This approach can be used to turn stem cells into mature blood cells that directly attack infection, or into cells that help stimulate and/or direct the immune system.