In 2013, The Campbell Foundation provided an $86,431 grant to a team of researchers at the University of California Davis to develop a gene therapy strategy designed to generate an HIV-resistant immune system in patients.
Joseph Anderson, principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine at UC Davis, along with his team, modified human stem cells with genes that resist HIV infection. They then transplanted a near-purified population of these cells into mice whose immune system was compromised.
The mice that were given the bioengineered cells avoided two important hallmarks of HIV infection: A drop in human CD4+ cell (or T-cell) levels and a rise in HIV virus in the blood. CD4+ cells are type of white blood cell that play a big role in fighting off infection. Their count indicates the stage of HIV or AIDS in a patient.
According to the UC Davis team: “Although other HIV investigators had previously bioengineered stem cells to be resistant to HIV and conducted clinical trials in human patients, efforts were stymied by technical problems in developing a pure population of the modified cells to be transplanted into patients. During the process of genetic engineering, a significant percentage of stem cells remain unmodified, leading to poor resistance when the entire population of modified cells is transplanted into humans or animal models. In the current investigation, the UC Davis team introduced a ‘handle’ onto the surface of the bioengineered cells so that the cells could be recognized and selected. This development achieved a population of HIV-resistant stem cells that was greater than 94 percent pure.”
The grant from The Campbell Foundation allowed UC Davis researchers to take their first step toward human clinical trials. To learn more you can read the full research paper here.
Over the years, many of The Campbell Foundation’s grant recipients have been able to use the funding we provide as a stepping stone toward the acquisition of additional grants that help them further their research. It is our mission to continue to fund nascent research in hopes that one day it will lead to a great discovery.
This blog was created to keep our donors up-to-date on those successes and to let them know how they are helping those who are living with HIV/AIDS.