HIV cure in sight with help of Droplet Digital™ PCR
Timothy Ray Brown is the only person who has been cured of HIV to date (Pollack 2011). Dubbed the Berlin Patient, the now 46-year-old Brown was living with HIV and leukemia in Berlin, Germany when he received two bone marrow stem cell transplants from a donor who carried, in both copies of his CCR5 gene, a well-characterized natural defect, the CCR5-∆ 32 mutation. (CCR5 is a major co-receptor used by HIV to enter and infect CD4+ cells.) The CCR5-∆ 32 mutation rendered the CCR5 protein inactive and thus made the donor’s cells naturally resistant to HIV. After completing the transplants in 2007 and 2008, Brown immediately stopped taking antiviral drugs and has remained HIV-free ever since, igniting considerable interest within the cure research community.
Sangamo BioSciences, Inc., located in Richmond, California, is using its proprietary zinc finger DNA-binding protein (ZFP) technology to develop therapies designed to provide a functional cure for HIV. ZFPs are a class of naturally-occurring proteins that can be engineered to recognize and bind to defined DNA sequences. By engineering gene-editing ZFP nucleases (ZFNs), it is possible to permanently disrupt CCR5 in immune cells (CD4+ T cells), thereby making them resistant to infection and available, potentially to control the virus without drugs.
Read more to find out how Sangamo BioSciences is within reach of curing HIV with the help of Droplet Digital PCR.