A group of really smart students at Lakota East High School, known to fellow teens as the kids trying to find a cure for AIDS, is taking its plan to the next level by meeting with the head of AIDS research at the University of Cincinnati.
Lexie Adams, Chase Harris, Maddox Linneman and Sam Pannek were invited to UC by Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, Director of HIV Clinical Research. They visited December 7, 2016. They're used to explaining their proposed AIDS cure because they've done it so many times in the halls of Lakota East.
To other high school students Chase Harris says he has to oversimplify it. "I don't want to say dumb it down but explain it really well. The analogy works well that Sam came up with."
Here's the analogy, according to Pannek:
"The HIV virus is like an intruder. The bad guys, the GP120 and the GP41 proteins are the key. The CCR5 surface receptor is the lock. The CD4 cell is the house. What we're trying to do is get the key put it in the lock and break it off so it bars any attempt for the intruder, or HIV to enter inside."
The students are part of a biomedical program at Lakota East run by Butler Tech.
Is AIDS still a problem?
Worldwide thirty-eight million people still have Aids, three to five thousand are living with it in Greater Cincinnati and it’s still an epidemic in Africa. Dozens of FDA approved medications help them live long productive lives but there’s currently no cure. The Lakota East students, part of a special biomedical program, want to change that.
Fictenbaum was impressed. "I thought it was fabulous. I was very ecstatic there are young people who are bright and interested in our community and trying to solve a very important problem in the world."
However, he points out there are some problems with their theory. "Delivering the protein that they suggest to all the places in the body because HIV goes pretty much everywhere including protected spaces like the brain." But he encourages them to keep at it.
The students have a partial patent and intend to rework their plan to include similar research.
They envision their AIDS cure as an inexpensive treatment similar to an insulin pump that even people in third world countries can afford.