Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have successfully grown HIV positive individuals' CD4 lymphocytes outside the body in the laboratory over a 4-8 week period. Since one hallmark of HIV disease is the progressive loss of CD4 lymphocytes, developing mechanisms to maintain or increase HIV positive individuals' CD4 cell counts remains an important goal in HIV/AIDS treatment. In the past, such growth was limited by the inevitable death of participants' CD4 cells in studies in vitro. Ex vivo growth of lymphocytes from HIV positive individuals has been limited to CD8 cells, which have subsequently been transfused back into participants.
C.C. Wilson, MD, and co-workers reported their findings in the July 1995 issue of Journal of Infectious Diseases. The researchers were able to increase the CD4 count ex vivo by a factor of 1,000 to 10 million. The key to the researchers' success was adding 3 anti-HIV drugs to the tissue cultures, as well as monoclonal antibodies to CD3 and CD8 receptors. The cultures had very low levels of HIV p24 antigen and DNA levels.
According to the authors, the next step in their research would be a clinical trial to determine the possible benefits of infusing the expanded CD4 cells back into participants.
Wilson CC and others. Ex vivo expansion of CD4 lymphocytes from human immunodeficiency virus type-1 infected persons in the presence of combination antiretroviral agents. Journal of Infectious Diseases 172(1): 88-96. July 1995.