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AIDS - Possible to Manufacture T-cells From Embryonic Stem Cells - UCLA Scientists Say Gene Therapy May Be Used To Fight HIV

July 9th 2006

AIDS - Possible to Manufacture T-cells From Embryonic Stem Cells - UCLA Scientists Say Gene Therapy May Be Used To Fight HIV


Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have been able “coax” stem cells into becoming T-cells.  T-cells are a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in the immune system.

The scientists say that if T-cells could be manufactured this could provide a powerful weapon against AIDS and other immune disorders and diseases.  At the core of their research are the stem cells which have the ability to transform themselves into a variety of cells. 

First the scientists cultured human embryonic stem cells.  These cells were then incubated on mouse bone marrow support cells, which in turn converted them into blood forming cells.  They then injected the cells a human thymus gland that had been implanted into a mouse. 


Amazingly the thymus changed these blood-forming cells into T-cells. Jerome Zack, associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute and co-author of the study, believes it is possible to decipher the signals that control the development of embryonic stem cells into mature T-cells. 

The thymus is located above the heart in humans.  This is where the T-cells are developed, and over time it gradually shrinks in adults weakening the immune system. 

This is the first time that scientists have been able to derive T-cells out of human embryonic stem cells.  It is hoped that this research could lead to a gene therapy to treat HIV and cases of severe immunodeficiency (bubble boy disease). 


Zoran Galic, assistant research biologist, and lead researcher on the study said, "This tells you that you may be able to use human embryonic stem cells to treat T-cell and other blood diseases. This could be a very important weapon in the fight against AIDS."  The research appears in the July 3rd online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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