Publication Spotlight: Genetically modified hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for HIV-1-infected patients: can we achieve a cure?
The cure of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1-infected patient following allogeneic transplantation from a CCR5-null donor and potential cure of two patients transplanted with CCR5 wild-type hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) have provided renewed optimism that a potential alternative to conventional antiretroviral therapy (ART) is forthcoming. While allogeneic grafts have thus far suggested complete eradication of viral reservoirs, it has yet to be observed following autologous HSC transplantation. Development of curative autologous transplantation strategies would significantly increase the number of treatable patients, eliminating the need for matched donors and reducing the risks of adverse events. Recent studies suggest gene therapy may provide a mechanism for developing curative therapies. Expression of cellular/artificial restriction factors or disruption of CCR5 has been shown to limit viral replication and provide protection of genetically modified cells. However, significant obstacles remain with regards to the depletion of established viral reservoirs in an autologous transplantation setting devoid of the “allo-effect”. Here, we discuss results from early-stage clinical trials and recent findings in animal models of gene modified HSC transplantation. Finally, we propose innovative combination therapies that may aid in the reduction and/or elimination of viral reservoirs in HIV-1-infected patients and promote the artificial development of a natural controller phenotype.