The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the University of Minnesota a $100,000 Grand Challenges Exploration grant for a global health research project that will explore the use of new stem cell-based therapies to fight the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Project leader Dan S. Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation and associate director of the Stem Cell Institute. He has previously demonstrated that natural killer cells—blood cells that work as part of the body’s immune system to attack tumors and HIV-infected cells—can be developed from human embryonic stem (ES) cells. For this project, he is testing the ability of these natural killer cells to fight HIV infections.
Kaufman is also investigating the potential of a newly described kind of stem cell, an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell, to generate natural killer cells to fight HIV. The iPS cells are derived from skin cells but reprogrammed to have the potential to act as ES cells. Both approaches provide a novel means of harnessing stem cells to treat patients infected with HIV.