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Sci Transl Med. 2011 Jan 19;3(66):66ra6. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001581.

An aptamer-siRNA chimera suppresses HIV-1 viral loads and protects from helper CD4(+) T cell decline in humanized mice.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, 1619 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Therapeutic strategies designed to treat HIV infection with combinations of antiviral drugs have proven to be the best approach for slowing the progression to AIDS. Despite this progress, there are problems with viral drug resistance and toxicity, necessitating new approaches to combating HIV-1 infection. We have therefore developed a different combination approach for the treatment of HIV infection in which an RNA aptamer, with high binding affinity to the HIV-1 envelope (gp120) protein and virus neutralization properties, is attached to and delivers a small interfering RNA (siRNA) that triggers sequence-specific degradation of HIV RNAs. We have tested the antiviral activities of these chimeric RNAs in a humanized Rag2(-/-)γc(-/-) (RAG-hu) mouse model with multilineage human hematopoiesis. In this animal model, HIV-1 replication and CD4(+) T cell depletion mimic the situation seen in human HIV-infected patients. Our results show that treatment with either the anti-gp120 aptamer or the aptamer-siRNA chimera suppressed HIV-1 replication by several orders of magnitude and prevented the viral-induced helper CD4(+) T cell decline. In comparison to the aptamer alone, the aptamer-siRNA combination provided more extensive inhibition, resulting in a significantly longer antiviral effect that extended several weeks beyond the last injected dose. The aptamer thus acts as a broad-spectrum HIV-neutralizing agent and an siRNA delivery vehicle. The combined aptamer-siRNA agent provides an attractive, nontoxic therapeutic approach for treatment of HIV infection.

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