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Coming soon: HIV shots?


One of the more daunting challenges of managing HIV is properly taking the daily regimen of one to five pills. But that could soon be in the past. The results of an experimental treatment, which appear in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, could mean that patients get an infrequent injection to stop the progression of the disease instead.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, led by Dr. Howard Gendelman, have developed what is referred to as a "nanoformulated" protease inhibitor. The process takes the drug, crystalizes it, and then gives it a fat and protein coating that resembles an ice-cream bar. This protects the drug from degrading in the body.

When combined with URMC-099, a new drug discovered by researchers at the University of Rochester, the "chemical marriage" appears to increase the longevity of the treatment. Though not a cure, the new treatment also promises to reduce toxicity problems sometimes associated with some HIV drugs because the new drug is taken less often, about once or twice a year.

"If you think about this in common sense terms, every time you take a medicine or any form of drug, you have to worry about the balance between therapeutic effects and side effects because all medicine has side effects," says Dr. Harris Gelbard, who led the UR team that developed URMC-099.

The drug would be delivered through injection and would greatly improve compliance, he says.

"It kind of makes you worry less about, 'Did I miss a dose today?' Gelbard says. "When you miss a dose or don't take [an HIV] medicine properly, it leads to resistance. Here's a virus that has capitalized on human behavior."