The treatment or cure of HIV infection by cell and gene therapy has been a goal for decades. Recent advances in both gene editing and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology have created new therapeutic possibilities for a variety of diseases.
Broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (bNAbs) with specificity for the HIV envelope glycoprotein provide a promising means of targeting HIV-infected cells. Here we show that primary human T cells engineered to express anti-HIV CARs based on bNAbs (HIVCAR) show specific activation and killing of HIV-infected versus uninfected cells in the absence of HIV replication. We also show that homology-directed recombination of the HIVCAR gene expression cassette into the CCR5 locus enhances suppression of replicating virus compared with HIVCAR expression alone.
This work demonstrates that HIV immunotherapy utilizing potent bNAb-based single-chain variable fragments fused to second-generation CAR signaling domains, delivered directly into the CCR5 locus of T cells by homology-directed gene editing, is feasible and effective. This strategy has the potential to target HIV-infected cells in HIV-infected individuals, which might help in the effort to cure HIV.