HIV/AIDS cure: Scientists develop new technique to scan body, detect viruses

| May 14, 2016 12:38 PM EDT

An HIV Prevention Specialist solicits people on the street to take a free HIV test.

A group of scientists from Imperial College London seems to have found a way that can help one detect HIV simply by using an easy scan. The new technique is expected to make it easier to cure this deadly disease by finding the mutating virus faster.

So far it was difficult to cure the disease even with drugs because, the virus mutates rapidly and transferred elsewhere in the body, making it difficult to completely eradicate. While the drug is able to get rid of the HIV from the bloodstream, the virus remains in the body, Crossmap reported.

The newly developed technique can, however, help other scientists to find a more specific cure for HIV. In fact, this procedure may actually help with the research for a functional cure, the reported quoted Alan Winston of Imperial College London.

According to scientists, HIV just hides in the immune cells of the patient either remaining dormant or to replicate rapidly. As a result, it is believed that one of the best means to treat HIV is to liven up the virus from dormancy and destroy it.

Currently, research in the field of HIV treatment is in its preliminary stage, but it is certainly showing promise. What is important is that scientists are currently trying to find ways and means to detect the location of the HIV.

Some scientists like Francois Villinger and his colleagues at the Emory University in Atlanta are speculating whether a usual PET scanning will actually work to detect the HIV, in the same way as cancer is located in the body. The discovery of the antibody that binds to SIV (the HIV version found in monkeys) actually gave rise to this idea.

To ascertain whether the idea holds any ground, Villinger and his undertook an animal study, wherein three monkeys with SIV were injected with radioactive antibodies. Subsequently, when they were subjected to PET scanning, it was found that the radiation caused the monkeys to produce a viral protein known as gp120.

Although gp120 was found all over the animals' body, the viral protein could not enter the brain. This finding is crucial keeping in view that the brain is one of the sanctuary sites of HIV. However, the scan apparently revealed the presence of the virus in the immune cells, which was confirmed when the immune cells of the monkeys were tested after they died.

According to Winston, though the study is not detailed, it is the first study that enabled scientists to visualize viral reservoirs. Now, scientist would be required to develop antibodies that will help to detect gp120 proteins. Once the scans are developed for HIV, it would be more difficult for the virus to mutate and hide after the patient is diagnosed with the disease.

Meanwhile, the virus can also be cured by antiretroviral therapy (ART), Medical News Today reported. Dr. Till Schoofs, who was one of the first authors of studies concerning immunotherapy, said that according to this study presents a solitary dose of an antibody stimulates the immune system of the patients, allowing them to make new or better antibodies against the virus.

Watch the video on "The first man to be cured of HIV" below:

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