Wednesday, February 11, 2009

HIV Gene Therapy

If I asked you what’s the most successful treatment for HIV, you’d probably say “homeopathic witchdoctoring”, right? Wrong. The answer is actually “modern medicine”. But even though actual science has developed highly effective treatments for HIV, there are still many infected patients who build a resistance to those treatments. And it’s these patients that will be participating in a clinical trial of a new HIV immunization treatment based on gene therapy. Scientists have discovered that people who are naturally immune to HIV have a mutated form of a common gene called CCR5. By cutting the CCR5 gene out of a person’s T-cells, they’ve been able to protect a tube full of human cells from HIV infection. The hope is that the same reaction will happen in the body, with the newly immune T-cells replicating and replacing those that still have the CCR5 gene. If so, this could potentially lead to a kind of gene therapy vaccine against HIV. And that would mean I could go back to what used to be my favorite hobby: sharing needles with performance artists in the back of Studio 54. More details here.

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