HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be stopped in its tracks by using gene therapy to tell infected cells how to prevent the virus from replicating, researchers said on Thursday.

“This could be the smart bomb in our arsenal,” said John Rossi, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Molecular Biology at City of Hope Cancer Center near Los Angeles and lead author of the study showing that small pieces of RNA can prevent HIV from growing in cells.

The findings of the gene therapy study, so far conducted only in the laboratory, appear in the May issue of “Nature Biotechnology.”