Scientists in Denmark are reporting that they are just months away from unveiling a breakthrough treatment that could functionally cure HIV, reports U.K. newspaper the Telegraph.
The researchers are currently conducting clinical trials of a "novel strategy" that strips the HIV virus from human DNA, allowing the immune system to permanently destroy the virus. The treatment involves releasing the HIV virus from "reservoirs" it forms within DNA, bringing the virus to the surface of the cell. Researchers contend that once the virus has been brought to the cell's surface, the body's immune system — boosted by a vaccine — can kill the HIV.
Lead researchers studying the treatment told Telegraph that initial signs are "promising."
"I am almost certain that we will be successful in releasing the reservoirs of HIV," said Dr. Ole Søgaard, a senior researcher at Denmark's Aarhus University Hospital. "The challenge will be getting the patients' immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems."
The Telegraph reports that 15 patients are currently enrolled in clinical trials for the treatment, and if they are successfully cured of HIV, the treatment will be rolled out on a larger scale, administered in combination with an immune-system booster.
The treatment uses HDAC inhibitors, which are most commonly used to treat cancer, according to the Telegraph. The Danish researchers are experimenting with a particularly potent HDAC inhibitor called Panobinostat.
The technique has already been proven effective in laboratory trials, including those that use human cells, reports the Telegraph. British scientists are currently researching a similar treatment method, but have yet to advance to the clinical trials stage of the process.
Danish researchers are also optimistic that if these human trials prove effective, the treatment could be made available on a large scale at an affordable cost, providing an alternative to gene therapy, the costly and complex treatment that aims to make a patient's immune system resistant to HIV.