Visiting scientist talks about possible treatment that can kill HIV


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (April 19, 2013) — According to the World Health Organization’s figures for 2011, more than 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV. Today, visiting scientist, Dr. James E.K. Hildreth shared his work with an experimental treatment that could virtually eliminate the virus in the body. Hildreth, dean of the College of Biological Sciences and professor of cellular and molecular Medicine and internal medicine at the University of California, Davis, spoke to Tuskegee students and faculty about the relationship between cholesterol and HIV.

Hildreth’s work has found that the presence of cholesterol in cells is vital to the replication of HIV and its continued presence in the human body. 

“HIV is a thief that steals proteins from the host,”Hildreth explained to the audience in John A. Kenney auditorium.

In studies he has conducted on HIV-infected human and animal cells, Hildreth has found that the introduction of a sugar, Beta-Cyclodextrin, is detrimental to the replication abilities of HIV. Often used in pharmaceuticals to make drug delivery more efficient, Beta-Cyclodextrin is well tolerated by the body, but can deplete the amount of cholesterol in cells. Hildreth said the loss of cholesterol makes the cell permeable; however, the cell is able to repair itself unlike the virus. 

“Removing as little as 10 percent of cholesterol is enough to cause the virus to die,” Hildreth said. 

Hildreth said he and his team are currently working to get approval to begin testing the use of an intravenous Beta-Cyclodextrin treatment on human patients. He also is moving forward with the development of a vaginal microbicide cream that helps block transmission of the virus. Odorless and almost undetectable, the cream acts as a chemical condom option for women to protect themselves. 

“Women will have the same power and choice as men have,” Hildreth said.

© 2013 Tuskegee University

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