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Scott Kitchen from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and colleagues tested whether it would be possible to genetically program human stem cells to target HIV.
"The immune response is normally fastidious at controlling the majority of viral infections and a therapeutic strategy aimed at re-establishing immune control represents a potentially powerful approach towards treating persistent viral infections," the study authors wrote as background.
The investigators engineered hematopoietic stem cells to evolve into mature CD8 cytotoxic ("killer") T-cells that express a cloned "transgenic" human anti-HIV T-cell receptor, which enables the cells to recognize HIV. The engineered killer T-cells were grown in human thymus tissue implanted into specially bred mice lacking an immune system.
Hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow are precursors for all types of blood cells. (The controversial stem cells that feature in political headlines are a different sort, pluripotent stem cells, which have the potential to evolve into any type of cell in the body.)