USP to participate in global network to find a cure for HIV

The Faculty of Medicine and the Hospital das Clínicas of the University of São Paulo (USP) will participate in a global research network that intends to find a definitive cure for HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS, through genetic engineering. The new approach to fighting the virus will seek to completely block HIV within cells and then eliminate it.

“The last few decades have represented very important advances in the treatment and control of HIV and AIDS. But the patient still needs to be treated continuously and the risk of aggravation in case of interruption remains. This new approach will be a fundamental step. It could finally be the cure for HIV”, highlighted the head professor of the Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases at FMUSP, Esper Kallás, who will coordinate the Brazilian group.

Currently, the fight against HIV is mainly done with the use of retroviral drugs, which need to be taken by patients for life. However, these drugs eliminate the virus that is circulating in the blood, but acts with less intensity on infected cells.

With the new approach proposed by the research, scientists will look for ways to block and lock HIV inside cells, leaving it inactive, which will have to be done with drugs that will act on the virus’s genetic material. The idea is to find ways to modify the virus inside the cell to the point of destroying it, eliminating it from the patient.

The network, known in English as HIV Obstruction by Programmed Epigenetics (HOPE) Collaboratory, is led by the Gladstone Institute, Scripps Research Florida and Weil Cornell Medicine, and will receive investments of $26.5 million to develop the research.

After completing the initial experimental phases by the research network, clinical trials should be conducted at the Hospital das Clínicas at FMUSP.