Gene Work On Cats May Yield AIDS Treatment

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ROCHESTER, Minn., Sept. 12 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say a genome-based immunization strategy to fight feline AIDS could lead to ways to combat human HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) leads to AIDS in cats as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does in people, by depleting the body’s infection-fighting T-cells, researchers at the Mayo Clinic said in a release last week.

The Mayo team of physicians, virologists, veterinarians and gene therapy researchers say they’ve attempted to mimic the way evolution normally gives rise over vast time spans to protective protein versions by inserting effective monkey versions of them into the cat genome.

“One of the best things about this biomedical research is that it is aimed at benefiting both human and feline health,” Eric Poeschla, a molecular biologist and leader of the international study, said. “It can help cats as much as people.”

Using a technique called gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis, the researchers introduced a gene for a rhesus macaque restriction factor known to block cell infection by FIV, into cat eggs before sperm fertilization.

The approach will not be used directly for treating people with HIV or cats with FIV, researchers said, but it will help medical and veterinary scientists understand how restriction factors can be used to advance gene therapy for AIDS caused by either virus.

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