UNMC Researchers Make HIV Breakthrough

July 2, 2019, 3:51 p.m. ·

Members of the UNMC research team included: Back row (left-right) - James Hilaire, Brady Sillman, Ph.D., Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., Santhi Gorantla, Ph.D., Benson Edagwa, Ph.D., and Hang Su; Front row -- R. Lee Mosley, Ph.D., JoEllyn McMillan, Ph.D., Howard Gendelman, M.D., Prasanta Dash, Ph.D., Saumi Mathews, Ph.D., Mary Banoub, and Zhiyi Lin. Missing from photo - Aditya Bade, Ph.D. and Nagsen Gautam, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy University of Nebraska Medical Center)

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The University of Nebraska Medical Center and Temple University announced Tuesday they’ve made a critical breakthrough in a hope to cure AIDS by eliminating HIV.

For the first time, the Nebraska Medical Center and Temple, eliminated the HIV virus that causes AIDS, from a lab mouse. Researchers described the process like a pair of scissors cutting out the virus.

Howard Gendelman M.D., UNMC professor of infectious diseases and internal medicine, led the HIV research. He said he saw the crippling effects of AIDS as an intern in the early 80s.

“We never thought, even with the vaccines and the trials for so many years, that HIV could be eliminated," he said.

Gendelman said they had to humanize a lab mouse, because only humans are affected by HIV. Researchers at UNMC did so with STEM cells and were able to give the mice a human-like immune system. Gendelman said more than half of the mouse tests didn’t work initially, but eventually the researchers found success.

“We’re celebrating the idea that HIV has the potential now to be eliminated,” Gendelman said.

The next step is turning the research into a commercial product. Michael Dixon, president and CEO of UNeMed, will help with getting the product on the market. Dixon said the three phases of testing takes five to seven years. He said UNMC wants to get the FDA testing done as soon as possible. Jeffrey Gold, UNMC chancellor, said UNMC has lots of experience getting its research to the public.

“The demand for this type of treatment around the world is unprecedented and will continue to grow," Gold said. "And there’s every reason to believe that we can and will deliver on that promise.”

Gendelman said this advancement has the potential to change the world by providing hope and encouragement in a big way.