Scientists have made a big breakthrough as they have found a way to make cells resistant to HIV. Their experiments under lab conditions showed that these resistant cells can replace diseased cells. This protection would be long-term, said Jia Xie, senior staff scientist at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in the US and first author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This remarkable discovery brings the scientific community one step closer to finding the cure for AIDS.

HIV is a sexually transmitted virus spread through certain body fluids that attack the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells. Over time, HIV can destroy many of these cells leaving the body weaker to fight off infections and disease. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). According to WHO, there were approximately 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2015.

Learn if you are at risk of contracting HIV.

HIV facts explained by the medical expert:

New Approach May Lead To Cure For HIV

The research was undertaken at The Scripps Research Institution in California and testing was firstly made against the rhinovirus, this is behind many of the cases of common cold. A vector was used with the name of lentivirus, and this delivered a totally new gene to human cells that had been cultured.

Researchers have found a way to make cells resistant to HIV by attaching antibodies to cell receptors, which block the virus from infecting them. Diseased cells die off and the protected cells spread the protective gene to new cells, making a resistant population.

This new approach differs from other therapies in that the antibodies grip onto the cell’s surface, blocking the virus from accessing a crucial cell receptor and replicating.

Unlike other therapies, the new technique uses the “neighbor effect” whereby allows the antibodies to bind to the cell’s surface which is more effective than free-floating ones in the bloodstream.

Here, cells protected from rhinovirus by membrane-tethered, receptor-blocking antibodies survive well and form colonies. Image Credit: Jia Xie, Lerner Lab

The ultimate goal will be the control of HIV in patients with AIDS without the need for other medications, say study authors in the press release.

The researchers also said they plan to collaborate with investigators at the City of Hope, an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases in the US. They want to evaluate this new therapy in efficacy and safety tests, as required by federal regulations, prior to testing in patients.