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Top 10 Scientific HIV Breakthroughs Of 2015 (Part I)

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From man-made antibodies specially engineered to fight HIV, to laser beams that could deliver medicine precisely to HIV-infected cells, 2015 was a year of incredible scientific advancements.

Whether the story was about making treatment of HIV easier by eventually eliminating the need for daily pills, or even curing the disease with stem cells, scientific leaps forward offered plenty of reasons to make people smile when an HIV Equal news story came into their news feeds.

Here are the first 5’s remarkable stories from the world of science in 2015 that helped inch us even closer to making HIV a thing of the past.


So far, only one person ever has been cured of HIV, and that is Timothy Brown, also known as “The Berlin Patient.”

Brown suffered from acute myeloid leukemia and also was HIV positive. He was given bone marrow from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that makes a person immune to HIV. Bone marrow transplants work because of stem cells. Other factors also likely contributed to Brown’s cure, however. You can read more about Brown’s cure in this report by Science.

In August, UC Davis obtained a grant to begin clinical trials in people with lymphoma and HIV to try to somewhat duplicate the results seen in Brown.

While we’re planning to first test our therapy in patients with lymphomas, our ultimate goal is to expand this treatment to all HIV patients,” said Anderson, co-principal investigator on the grant and a researcher at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, in an HIV Equal story. “If we can prove effectiveness in our upcoming clinical trial, this new approach could benefit a large number of HIV positive patients, both with and without HIV-related malignancies.


Sometimes advances in HIV treatment and prevention are found in surprising places. For example, at this time last year researchers found that the blood of llamas may offer clues for an HIV vaccine, Healthline News reported.

When scientists this year discovered that disulfiram, a pill used to treat alcoholism, kicked up latent HIV reservoirs, it was a similar “oh wow” moment. In an experiment among 20 healthy, HIV-infected adults (undetectable viral load, or less than 50/ml, and a CD4 count greater than 350), participants were given 500 mg, 1000 mg and 2,000 mg of disulfiram daily for three days, HIV Equal reported in November.The dosage of disulfiram we used provided more of a ‘tickle’ than a ‘kick’ to the virus, but this could be enough,” said Sharon Lewin, University of Melbourne professor, in a news release. “Even though the drug was only given for three days, we saw a clear increase in virus in plasma, which was very encouraging.”

Smoking HIV out of its hiding spots has proven a huge roadblock to finding a cure.


A slew of studies came out showing promise for PrEP in new forms beyond daily Truvada, although such developments probably are at least four years off.

The idea is to make adherence to PrEP easier by using long-lasting injections or even implants to deliver sustained protection against HIV. There also is talk of a PrEP lube (microbicide) and even a PrEP enema, since most people douche before sex.

The biggest challenge prevention experts face is getting the form of PrEP we already have – Truvada – to the people who need it. In 2016, you can expect more research to emerge from the social science community as to how best to do that.


In May, researchers at the CHUM Research Centre, affiliated with the University of Montreal, identified a way to use a “can opener” to force the virus to open up and to expose its vulnerable parts, allowing the immune system cells to then kill the infected cells, EurekAlert reported.

This breakthrough, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, opens a new path in the fight against HIV and could ultimately lead to the design of a vaccine to prevent transmission of the virus. This innovative approach could also be part of the solution for one day eradicating the virus.”


In February, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute announced that they had created a powerful protein eCD4-lg, that stops HIV by blocking two of the receptors where HIV binds to a cell. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

The technique researchers used is similar to other kinds of cutting-edge genetic engineering,” Healthline News reported. “They injected a small strand of DNA into four rhesus monkeys that caused their cells to produce the new HIV blocking protein.

Human testing could begin in 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The protein is so powerful and the protection it offers is so long-lasting — blocking infection for 8 to 10 months — that scientists speculate it may also someday be used to keep the virus in check in the bodies of people who are already infected,” reported Healthline.

Source: HIVEqual

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