U of M Research Advances Potential HIV Cure Strategy

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MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (02/14/2024) — Published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases Oxford Academic, research led by the University of Minnesota Medical School offers a new avenue of hope in the fight against chronic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. 

The researchers explored the use of Natural Killer (NK) cells aiming to restore their function for better infection control — an approach that could be used in a broader HIV cure strategy as multiple companies are working on mass production of healthy NK cells.

“HIV has really excellent therapies thanks to the unprecedented progress in developing antiretroviral therapy, but even with that, the disease still causes early mortality and significant medical problems, and a cure is desperately needed,” said Tim Schacker, MD, the principal investigator and program director in HIV Medicine at the U of M Medical School.

NK cells are a frontline defense against viral infections. HIV can disable these cells, making it difficult to clear the infection. The research involved providing HIV-positive individuals with an infusion of healthy NK cells obtained from a close relative along with the drug N-803 from ImmunityBio, which enhances NK activity. All participants in this early-stage study experienced a marked decrease in the burden of infection, and the procedures were found to be safe and well-tolerated.

While acknowledging the high cost and limited scalability of this approach for the over 35 million infected people worldwide, the study offers important insight into possible cure strategies by demonstrating that enhancing NK cell function can substantially reduce HIV burden. 
Pending NIH funding, the research team plans a larger study combining NK cells with N-803 plus an HIV-specific broadly neutralizing antibody — similar to what was successfully used to treat COVID-19 — to determine if the combination can lead to even further reductions in the burden of infection and get us another step closer to curing HIV. 

Funding was provided by The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).


About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. We acknowledge that the U of M Medhttps://www.amfar.org/ical School, both the Twin Cities campus and Duluth campus, is located on traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Dakota and the Ojibwe, and scores of other Indigenous people, and we affirm our commitment to tribal communities and their sovereignty as we seek to improve and strengthen our relations with tribal nations. For more information about the U of M Medical School, please visit med.umn.edu

For media requests, please contact:
Ezra Xiong
Communications Specialist
University of Minnesota Medical School

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