When HIV attacks a T cell, it attaches itself to the cell’s surface and launches a “harpoon” to create an opening to enter and infect the cells. To stop the invasion, researchers from the Penn Center for AIDS Research at the University of Pennsylvania and scientists from Sangamo BioSciences, Inc. have developed genetically engineered T cells armed with a so-called “fusion inhibitor” to disrupt this critical step and prevent a wide range of HIV viruses from entering and infecting the T cells. The findings were reported today online in a preclinical study in PLOS Pathogens.
HIV medicine experienced a breakthrough in the early 2000s with a unique class of drugs known as “fusion inhibitors.” Unlike most drugs that block virus replication inside of T cells, these drugs prevent HIV from entering cells in the first place. The drug, enfuvirtide, modeled after a peptide from the viral envelope and used today in