Theoretical design of a gene therapy to prevent AIDS but not human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection

J Virol. 2003 Sep;77(18):10028-36. doi: 10.1128/jvi.77.18.10028-10036.2003.


Recent reports confirm that, due to the presence of long-lived, latently infected cell populations, eradication of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) from infected patients by using antiretroviral drugs will be exceedingly difficult. An alternative to virus eradication may be to use gene therapy to induce a pseudo-latent state in virus-producing cells, thus transforming HIV-1 into a lifelong, but manageable, virus. Conditionally replicating HIV-1 (crHIV-1) gene therapy vectors provide an avenue for subduing HIV-1 expression in infected cells (by creating a parasite, crHIV-1, of the parasite HIV-1), potentially reducing the HIV-1 set point and delaying AIDS onset. Development of crHIV-1 vectors has proceeded in vitro, but the requirements for a crHIV-1 vector to proliferate and persist in vivo have not been explored. We expand a widely accepted mathematical model of HIV-1 in vivo dynamics to include a crHIV-1 gene therapy virus and derive a simple criterion for designing crHIV-1 viruses that will persist in vivo. The model introduces only two new parameters-HIV-1 inhibition and crHIV-1 production-and both can be experimentally engineered and controlled. Analysis demonstrates that crHIV-1 gene therapy can indefinitely reduce HIV-1 set point to levels comparable to those achieved with highly active antiretroviral therapy, provided crHIV-1 production is more efficient than HIV-1. Paradoxically, highly efficient therapeutic inhibition of HIV-1 was found to be disadvantageous. Thus, the field may benefit by shifting the search for more potent antiviral genes toward engineering optimized therapy viruses that package ultra-efficiently while downregulating viral production moderately.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mutation
  • Recombination, Genetic