Embryonic stem cells may lead to AIDS cure

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

Laboratory studies reveal how human embryonic stem cells can turn into T helper cells, which are destroyed in HIV/AIDS.
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be turned into a large range of functioning cells and so have a lot of potential for therapy in conditions like diabetes and heart disease. A team at the University of California, Los Angeles, AIDS Institute now reveal hESCs can be turned into T-helper cells, which has big implications for AIDS treatment.

This is the first time that T cells, a major component of the immune system, have been derived from hESCs. The researchers cultured hESCs and converted them into blood-forming cells. Then the cells were injected into a human thymus gland implanted into a mouse, which revealed that T-cells can be formed from the hESCs. The findings showed that it is possible to work out the signals that control development of hESCs into T cells. It may be possible to use this in the treatment of HIV/AIDS by allowing the repopulation of the patient’s immune system.

Source
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online 3rd July 2006

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