Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology and the Fight Against HIV

A group of Researchers from Creighton University’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, led by Dr. Chris Destache, has recently been awarded a grant by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for approximately $1.5 million to use nanotechnology for the treatment and possible prevention of HIV/AIDS.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the contagious virus that can be transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids, and AIDS refers to the set of symptoms that arise following acquisition of the virus.

To treat HIV/AIDS, Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy, or HAART, is the main treatment option that combines at least 3 different types of drugs from 2 or more classes. Of these classes of drugs can include entry inhibitors, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), integrase inhibitors or protease inhibitors (PIs), each of which target a different area of the virus’ genetic properties that allow for its proliferation in an infected individual.

In 2016, it was estimated that 26.7 million people were living with HIV, of which include approximately 1.1 million Americans. Previously, HIV treatment involved multiple different pills that had to be strictly taken each day, however, current HAART treatments often have the option of being given as a single pill that is taken each day.

Such medical innovations have completely transformed the prognosis for a person living with HIV/AIDS, which, during the 1980s, offered patients a bleak survival rate measuring in weeks to months, however, today these treatments offer individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS a close to normal life expectancy.

An increased awareness of HIV/AIDS and prevention methods, combined with the availability of such powerful treatment options, has allowed new HIV infections to decline by 18% in the U.S. alone. While this is true, the costs associated with HIV anti-retroviral treatment can be a tremendous burden, as the average lifetime cost of treating HIV can be up to $500,000 or more.

This number can be even more devastating for an individual living with HIV/AIDS and who is also uninsured, which is a category that accounts for about 30% of Americans with HIV/AIDs. Therefore, a treatment formulation, such as that which has been proposed by Destache’s team at Creighton, could be a revolutionary option for individuals who struggle to maintain their daily pill regimen, as well as keep up with the staggering medical costs associated with their prognosis.

When HIV enters a cell, it targets a specific receptor to allow for its proliferation, however, Destache’s method incorporates a monoclonal antibody that blocks the targeted receptor, thereby preventing HIV from penetrating the cell1.

Destache’s approach involves a subcutaneous administration of a combination of antiretroviral drugs such as tenofovir disoproxil fumurate (TDF), and elvitegravir or rilpivirine, which will be fabricated into polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) for the formulation.

To determine the dose efficacy, mice will be treated once every 7 days. Once the most optimal polymeric NP dose is achieved in the mouse model, Destache believes that this will correlate with a monthly administration of the subcutaneous injection for humans.

The injection of different types of nanoparticles for the treatment of various diseases, such as osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer, spinal cord injury, and much more, has already proven successful, therefore the application of retroviral nanoparticles for the treatment of HIV has the potential to revolutionize the way this once highly stigmatized and devastating illness is treated and prevented from now on.   

Image Credit:

Spectral-Design/ Shutterstock.com


“Long-acting antiretroviral nanoparticles for HIV prophylaxis” – Creighton University

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine, which are two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are currently used in anticancer therapy.


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