Powerful antibodies can be useful in killing HIV-1-infected cells, a new study finds. Findings could lead to new immunotherapy treatments for HIV.

A team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that these potent antibodies can generate chimeric antigen receptors, a certain type of cell which is usually called "CARs." These certain types of immune T cells are artificially created for a specific purpose: to create receptors on their surface to zone in and kill cells that contain tumor proteins or viruses.

The current gene immunotherapy has been focusing on these chimeric receptors and how they can help in the fight against cancer. However, recent findings have shown that they also have a strong response against HIV and could lead to the development of new treatments.

"We took new generation antibodies and engineered them as artificial T-cell receptors, to reprogram killer T cells to kill HIV-infected cells," said study co-author Dr. Otto Yang from UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. Yang is also the pathogenesis and vaccine director at the Center for AIDS Research and AIDS Institute.

The human immune system is capable of initially responding and fighting off HIV attacks. However, the virus' capability of hiding in various T cells and rapid replication eventually lead to the decline of the immune system. This leaves the human host vulnerable to other diseases and infections.

In recent years, the scientific and medical communities have been searching for ways on how to increase the strength of the body's immune system to fight against HIV. The new findings could lead to the development of a new immunotherapy based on CARs in the global HIV fight.

In the recent lab tests, the researchers found that seven "broadly neutralizing antibodies" — which were recently discovered — showed abilities to direct the killer T cells to multiply, eradicate and stop viral replication as a response to HIV-infected cells.

However, further research needs to be conducted to determine if the receptors can work in human subjects. The new research is published in the Journal of Virology. The research gained funding from the Center for AIDS Research, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (#TR4-06845) and the UCLA AIDS Institute.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV as of June 2016, with about one in eight persons unaware that they have the virus. In 2014, there were about 44,073 people in the country diagnosed with HIV. The rate showed a 19 percent decline compared with rates in 2005.

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