New Strategy Could Allow Patients to Temporarily Stop HIV Medication

A new approach to treating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) could allow patients to temporarily stop their medication, according to a team from the University of Leuven in Belgium.

A new approach to treating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) could allow patients to temporarily stop their medication, according to a team from the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Current antiviral drugs suppress HIV replication and help patients leave seemingly normal lives. But the secret to eradicating the virus, AKA the cure to HIV, has yet to be identified. One of the things that researchers know is that the virus uses the cellular protein, LEDGF, to attach itself to genetic material so that it can put its DNA inside human cells. When this happens, the virus can multiply.

Back in 2010, Zeger Debyser, MD, PhD, and colleagues developed LEDGINs — inhibitors that can block the virus from attaching itself to the locations where it can multiply. Continuing off of this research, Lenard Vranckx, a doctoral student, made a new discovery.

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In a new study published in EBioMedicine, the researchers demonstrated that not only do LEDGINs inhibit HIV from latching on to human cells, but the inhibitors also relocated the virus to reservoirs where it they can’t multiply.

“Taken together, these results support the potential of integrase inhibitors that modulate integration site targeting to reduce the likeliness of viral rebound,” the authors wrote. This means that with this strategy, patients may be able to stop taking their medication for a while.

However, Debyser remains cautiously optimistic about the findings. Will LEDGINs result in an HIV cure? It’s much too soon to say either way, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“We don’t want to give anyone false hope. Out discovery is based on cell cultures. The findings still need to be tested in mice and in clinical studies. That’s why a potential treatment based on the discovery is still years in the future,” Debyser, a professor in the Center for Molecular Medicine at the University of Leuven, said in a news release.

The team plans to continue studying LEDGINs and hope it leads to clinical trials one day.

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