Could stem cells be the key to eradicating HIV?

A combination of timing, opportunity and location could be the key to discovering a cure for HIV.

Timing because ground breaking, Nobel prize-winning technology has given the space to dig further into the pandemic; opportunity because centres such as the Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) in South Africa now have access to this technology and location because the African continent is said to have the world's largest gene pool, making it the perfect place to develop the most effective stem cells.

Senior Researcher at the CSIR, Dr Janine Scholefield unpacks this stem cell technology:

There was fantastic work done by a Japanese researcher (Dr Shinya Yamanaka) in 2007, who discovered a way to coax skin cells into stem cells by exposing them to a cocktail of genes and this technology was so powerful that he won the Nobel Prize two years ago. That's the technology that we've establised in the lab over the last two years or so.

Scholefield expands on how our location could make this research most effective here:

It's been well established for a long time now that Africa holds the complete diversity of the entire world. Most of the advanced medical research has happened in the more developed countries such as the United States and parts of Europe. There's limited genetic diversity there. The problem is that when you're using limited samples to do development or research, you results are limited to what those genetic backgrounds can contribute. Whereas if you do research on our genetic background, you cover the entire world of possibilities. Africa is the home of Homo sapiens (scientific name for human beings), it all started here and spread out.

What's the link between stem cell generation and the development of an HIV cure? Scholefield breaks down the science:

We make millions of white blood cells - they're called macrophages and we do them every week as part of the technology we've been able to establish - only a few of our cell types in our body can actually be infected by HIV. We can generate these cells in the lab and then add HIV to them and try to interrogate the mechanism - how is it that HIV is hijacking the proteins in our cells to fill them to be able to invade our immune system later on? We are trying to uncover the very basic first steps that HIV is able to bypass. And you can only be able to do this kind of research with these type of blood cells.

CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
Major medical breakthrough: New gene pegged as cause of heart attacks in youth

Major medical breakthrough: New gene pegged as cause of heart attacks in youth

This is being called the biggest medical advancement in South African cardiology since Dr Chris Barnard's first heart transplant.

Parents urged to check tertiary institutions are legit before registering kids

Parents urged to check tertiary institutions are legit before registering kids

The Council on Higher Education says parents need to be wary of the increasing number of fly-by-night tertiary institutions.

New app to detect hearing loss

New app to detect hearing loss

University of Pretoria has developed a new app which uses a smartphone to detect hearing loss.

What we can expect from SABC after inquiry consolidates

What we can expect from SABC after inquiry consolidates

SABC's leadership and parliament has come under fire since the inquiry into the board's fitness to hold office.

LISTEN: Radio veterans, Gordhan, sports stars, celebs say bye to John Robbie

LISTEN: Radio veterans, Gordhan, sports stars, celebs say bye to John Robbie

John Robbie's 30-year run in radio has come to an end with friends, callers and colleagues wishing him a heartfelt goodbye.

2016 news wrap: A look back at the stories that grabbed SA's attention

2016 news wrap: A look back at the stories that grabbed SA's attention

Barry Bateman spoke to Stephen Grootes to unpack the meaning behind the stories that dominated the headlines in 2016.

Popular articles
LISTEN: Gerrie Nel on why he's persuing prosecution against Duduzane Zuma

LISTEN: Gerrie Nel on why he's persuing prosecution against Duduzane Zuma

AfriForum will prosecute Duduzane Zuma after NPA declined to do so in 2015 following a 2014 accident where a woman died.

How we invented the modern concept of sleep

How we invented the modern concept of sleep

Dr Bodhisattva Kar reveals how industrial capitalism influenced the world's current sleep patterns.

Hassen Adams (he brought Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts to SA) talks money

Hassen Adams (he brought Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts to SA) talks money

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Adams about his attitude to money (hopes and fears, successes and failures, etc.).

Kloof Street residents living in fear as crime multiplies

Kloof Street residents living in fear as crime multiplies

A Cape Town man was stabbed to death on Saturday while trying to assist two women who were being mugged on Kloof street.

‘I started my thriving business with R5000 (and made a profit in the 1st month)’

‘I started my thriving business with R5000 (and made a profit in the 1st month)’

After 3 years there are 3 Nic Harry stores (incl online) that sell 100 000 pairs of socks in over 20 countries around the world.