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Stem cells may be thought of as the body's building blocks. They are master cells which can develop into other types of cells with a specialized function. Many scientists believe they hold great promise in treating a host of ailments, and there have been good results in some clinical trials. Now, researchers are hoping to start clinical trials in humans using the genetically modified stem cells to fight off the virus which causes AIDS. This, after tests on HIV-infected mice yielded good results.
"The actual stem cells were injected in my arm, said Diana Souza.
Diana Souza says stem cell therapy helped restore full use of her severely fractured arm.
“It is a miracle. It does work. And I have a good arm to prove it," she said.
Stem cell therapy works by providing new cells to replace the diseased cells and tissues.
At the California Institute of Regenerative Cures, Joseph Anderson is working on stem cell therapy for HIV infection. So far, he has been working with mice - replacing their immune systems with stem cells engineered with a triple combination of HIV-resistant genes.
"They were able to block HIV infection, maintain a normal immune system in the mice, even though the virus was still there," said Joseph Anderson. "The resistant immune cells were able to maintain a normal immune cell level and maintain a functional immune system.
Anderson says this could provide a possible cure for people who are infected with HIV and have a severely compromised immune system. He says the genetically-engineered stem cells will help them maintain a normal immune system through genetic resistance just as in the case of the mice.
“If it moves forward in human clinical trials we would be able to maintain a normal human immune system in patients that have HIV infection," he said. "Hopefully they will be able to stop taking antiretroviral drugs that they normally take because the genetically resistant stem cells will be able to fight off the virus in the body of the patients.”
Scientists working on this project say that, ideally, this would be a one-time treatment of stem cells charged with HIV-resistant genes. They hope that would generate an entire HIV-resistant immune system - making it possible to take patients off the antiretroviral drugs.