UCLA researchers this week published data that for the first time shows human blood stem cells can be engineered to attack HIV-infected cells and that the process could not only prove to be a breakthrough for AIDS patients but also for the sufferers of other viral diseases.

The UCLA AIDS Institute study was published this week in the online journal Plos ONE. The research proves the feasibility “that human stem cells can be engineered into the equivalent of a genetic vaccine,” according to an institute statement.

“We have demonstrated in this proof-of-principle study that this type of approach can be used to engineer the human immune system, particularly the T-cell response, to specifically target HIV-infected cells,” states lead investigator Scott G. Kitchen, assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the UCLA AIDS Institute. “These studies lay the foundation for further therapeutic development that involves restoring damaged or defective immune responses toward a variety of viruses that cause chronic disease, or even different types of tumors.”

The researched used human cells and tissue, but the next step is to find out if the process would actually work within the human body.

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