Novel Dual CAR T cell immunotherapy promising for targeting the HIV reservoir

A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine, led by researchers James Riley, a professor of microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, and Todd Allen, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Group Leader at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, describes a new Dual CAR T cell immunotherapy that can help fight HIV infection.

Microscopic view of antibodies destroying an infected cell by a virus.

“This study highlights how relatively straightforward alterations to the way T cells are engineered can lead to dramatic changes in their potency and durability,” Riley says. “This finding has significant implications for using engineered T cells to fight both HIV and cancer.”

A major hurdle to HIV cure is the viral reservoir, copies of HIV hidden away in the genome of infected cells. If ART treatment is stopped, the virus is able to rapidly make new copies of itself, ultimately leading to the development of AIDS.

CAR T cells are a powerful immunotherapy, currently used in cancer treatments, in which a patient’s own immune T cells are engineered to express Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs). These CARs reprogram the T cells to recognize and eliminate specific diseased or infected cells, such as cancer cells or, potentially, HIV-infected cells.

Allen’s and Riley’s research groups worked together to design a new HIV-specific CAR T cell. They needed to design a CAR T cell that would be able to target and quickly eliminate HIV-infected cells, survive and reproduce once in the body, and resist infection by HIV itself, since HIV’s primary target is these very same T cells.

“By using a stepwise approach to solve each issue as it arose, we developed protected Dual CAR T cells, which provided a strong, long-lasting response against HIV-infection while being resistant to the virus itself,” Allen says. 

Read more at Penn Medicine News.