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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - November 15, 2001

Ottawa Researchers Develop New Method Of Reducing HIV To Undetectable Levels In Vitro

OTTAWA - Canadian researchers today announced results of a study targeting a new treatment for HIV. The study, led by the laboratory team of Dr. Andrew Badley at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), is published in the November 15th edition of the Journal of Virology.

"The reason we haven't been able to cure HIV infection to date is because it persists in certain cells which function as reservoirs for the virus," explains Dr. Badley. "Current HIV treatments are limited to keeping the virus from replicating, but do not attack the virus which is resting inside cells."

However, researchers hypothesized that a molecule, similar to one that is currently being evaluated pre-clinically in cancer, could lend itself to the treatment of HIV, possibly by attacking the virus in its hiding place. Dr. Badley's lab, in collaboration with Dr. David Lynch from Immunex Corporation of Seattle, has evaluated the ability of this molecule to impact the cellular reservoirs of HIV. To date no other treatments have been identified which reduce the amount of virus within latently infected cells. This molecule is a protein which is normally produced by a variety of immune cells in people, both HIV infected and non-infected. The research team has demonstrated that by using the lucine zipper form of the TRAIL molecule (LZ-TRAIL) to treat cells from HIV-infected patients in vitro, or in the test-tube, they were able to reduce the amount of HIV to undetectable levels in latently infected cells, in four out of seven cases. Importantly, this treatment does not have any negative impact on cells from HIV uninfected patients.

"The beauty of this new strategy that we have developed, lies in a particular molecule's ability to kill the cells where HIV hides, without doing damage to uninfected cells," explains Dr. Badley. "This could map out new strategies for the treatment of patients infected with HIV."

Dr. Badley's experience in dealing with HIV is not limited to the laboratory. In his role as a physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Ottawa Hospital, he takes his findings from bench to bedside, trying to develop new and effective treatments for the patients he sees regularly in clinic or on the wards. He also helps prepare the next generation of physicians and researchers in his capacity as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Badley's research team has been working on this project for nearly three years. His laboratory's work is supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The OHRI is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital, and a major part of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Health Science. Its research programs are grouped into: Molecular Medicine and HIV, Cancer Therapeutics, Clinical Epidemiology, Diseases of Aging, Hormones, Growth and Development, Neuroscience, and Vision. With over 100 scientists, 225 students and 400 support staff, and $34 million in external funding, the OHRI is one of the largest and most respected hospital-based research institutes in Canada.


Ron Vezina, Media Relations Officer, 613-737-8460

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