Israeli scientists see breakthrough in AIDS cure

November 3, 2016
Originally appeared in The Times of Israel
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Destroying the cells

Israeli scientists see breakthrough in AIDS cure

Drug now being tested causes HIV-infected cells to self-destruct without harming the rest of the body

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF November 1, 2016, 3:26 am 43
Illustrative photo of blood in a test tube. (Margalit Slovin/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of blood in a test tube. (Margalit Slovin/Flash90)

HIV and AIDS patients may find new hope in a drug developed at Hebrew University in Jerusalem which is currently being tested at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot.

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The drug was inserted into test tubes containing the blood of ten AIDS patients currently being treated at the hospital, and was found to decrease the HIV virus count in the blood samples by as much as 97 percent in just eight days, Channel 2 reported Monday.

The active ingredient in the drug is a peptide, or smaller version of a protein, that was developed by Abraham Loyter and Assaf Friedler at Hebrew University. The peptide causes several copies of the virus’s DNA to enter the infected cell, instead of just one copy, causing the cell to self-destruct.

HIV is currently treated with a cocktail of drugs that slow the progression of the infection in the body but never rid the patient of the virus entirely. These drugs have allowed doctors to treat AIDS as a chronic illness as opposed to a fatal one.

Loyter explained that the new approach is superior to previous efforts.

“With our approach,” Loyter told Channel 2, “we are destroying the cells, so there is no chance that the virus will awaken one day, because there are no cells, there will be no cells that contain the virus.”

Loyter explained that “the drug enhances certain processes in the body during the spreading of the virus and that enhancement kills certain cells.”

In a separate but related development, the Health Ministry announced last week it would begin distributing prophylactic drugs for the first time to populations at higher risk of contracting HIV. The drugs, when taken regularly, have been found to be effective in preventing the spread of HIV during contact.

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