In a significant step forward for HIV medical researchers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved clinical human trials for a potential "functional" HIV cure. The treatment, developed by Sangamo BioSciences Inc., uses stem cells and gene therapy to create a mutation in the white blood sells of a patient infected with HIV. The mutation mimics a mutation that naturally occurs in a small portion of the global population that has been found to be resistant to HIV infection.
But just what is a "functional cure" as opposed to just a "cure"? Usually when we think of a cure, we think of removing the harmful pathogen entirely from the body. In this case, that pathogen is the AIDS-causing virus, HIV. A "functional cure" however is one in which the virus (or other pathogen) is not entirely removed from the body, but where the symptoms and negative effects of the virus are removed. That is, a functional cure for HIV would mean that the patient would never develop AIDS or other signs of disease due to HIV.
A possible “functional cure” for HIV has recently been granted FDA approval for further human testing. The method uses genetic modification to cause a specific mutation in the white blood cells of HIV patients which mirrors those found in the naturally immune. It has so far shown to be both receptive and long-lasting.
While the medical community has been closing in on a functional cure to HIV with various drug therapies, the recent approval of this gene therapy method is another approach.
According to the San Francisco Business Times, the trial will take place at the City of Hope medical center in California.