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Researchers Discover Gene That Blocks HIV 333

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i'm-pretty-good-at-giving-people-bad-news dept.
stemceller writes to tell us that a team of researchers at the University of Alberta claims to have discovered a gene capable of blocking HIV thereby preventing the onset of full blown AIDS. "Stephen Barr, a molecular virologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, says his team has identified a gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection in a cell culture by preventing the assembly of the virus. 'When we put this gene in cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV virus," said Barr, a postdoctoral fellow. "This means the virus cannot get out of the cells to infect other cells, thereby blocking the spread of the virus.'"
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Researchers Discover Gene That Blocks HIV

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  • Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:21PM (#22611298)
    Does anyone know if gene therapy has progressed far enough to actually apply this to cell DNA? Is this actually a real cure for AIDS?
    • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:23PM (#22611310)
      Does anyone know if gene therapy has progressed far enough to actually apply this to cell DNA? Is this actually a real cure for AIDS

      Sure. They just use a mostly-dead other virus to permanently change your genetic code. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:36PM (#22611398)

        Sure. They just use a mostly-dead other virus to permanently change your genetic code. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
        If it was all dead, we could go through its pockets for spare change.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Does anyone know if gene therapy has progressed far enough to actually apply this to cell DNA? Is this actually a real cure for AIDS

        Sure. They just use a mostly-dead other virus to permanently change your genetic code. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

        No. Grinding up HIVs for cell receptor antibodies is almost useless because any cell that has a CD4 receptor can be attacked by the HIV anyways. This is sort of like giving your generals the battle plans (the T helper cells ready to make antibodies). HIV then kills the generals before the battle plan can be implemented.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Telvin_3d (855514)
        Well how much more wrong can it get than AIDs? I mean, what could happen, it kills you a little faster? If they have even 50/50 survival/success rate people will line up for this.
        • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by harry666t (1062422) <harry666tNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:05PM (#22611548)
          Believe me or not, but there /are/ things that are worse than death...
        • by ScentCone (795499)
          Well how much more wrong can it get than AIDs?

          They're talking about a means by which you can avoid having the virus set in in the first place, by preventing it from being able to replicate. This would be something you'd do to yourself, genetically, before you are even exposed to HIV. If you don't already HAVE the virus, and don't do the things that, for most people, are what increase your odds of getting the virus, perhaps you wouldn't want your DNA messed with? That's the sort of thing to examine. Risk/
      • More seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DrYak (748999) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @08:19PM (#22612614) Homepage
        The good part is that HIV attacks the white blood cells, i.e.: cells that aren't fixed in an organ, but that freely mobile in the blood stream and are produced by the bone marrow (which can also be injected freely in the blood stream and will home on its own to the bones).

        So one possibility would be to :
        - get some progenitor cells from the marrow
        - do the recombination under laboratory controlled conditions using whatever methodology seems to be the best (not forced to use viruses that can still replicate other methods could be acceptable)
        - select those progenitor cells where the recombination happened in the most optimal way (the new gene did got indeed inserted, and got inserted at a correct place where it won't cause cancer or otherwise disturb the function of gene that were present before the recombination)
        - inject those modified cells into the patient bloodstream and let them go back to the bone marrow
        - those celles produce a new generation of HIV-resistant lymphocytes.

        As we are not forced to use virus inside a patient but can do the transformation under controlled conditions, and as we have a lot more knowledge about human genome, we might manage to diminish the risk of the transposons continuing to jump around and damage important genes (compared for example to what was found with Monsanto's GM corn).

        Risks of rejection may be lowered compared to what happens with Cystic-fibrosis gene therapy, because :
        - no virus inside the patient body and less foreign material : less likely to trigger a immune response.
        - cells are only modified using the new gene, no other virus-cycle replicating proteins : less likely to be recognized as 'foreign'
        - patient with an active AIDS are immuno-compromised anyway so the risk of immunological reject are lowered anyway.

        Also, unlike other gene therapies, the effect of that one are very likely to be permanent because we have access to the progenitor cells that produce the lymphocytes. Whereas with CF gene therapy, the virus is inhaled and affects cells on the surface of the respiratory tract : mostly differentiated cells that won't divide anymore, once they are dead a new exposition to the virus is necessary to produce a new crop of modified cells, hence the risk of rejection increase with each exposition. In CF, the progenitor cells aren't easily available.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Actually, German researchers have reported [wired.com] that DNA vaccines may be deliverable via a tattoo gun. Whether they use a plasmid or a virus of whatever sort (not that deadly really) to deliver the DNA is still another question, but doing it effectively on a rather large scale would become feasible with this technique.
    • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Informative)

      by mckniffen (983873) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:25PM (#22611324)
      That research lab at Alberta is know for releasing under-researched findings before complete testing is applied. I also want to point out that it would be near impossible to make anything but a vaccine out of this discovery. So people already having aids with be out of luck, regardless of what TFA says.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by snl2587 (1177409)

        So people already having aids with be out of luck, regardless of what TFA says.

        Very true. Unfortunately, the mechanisms of full-blown AIDS run too deep, so that even expelling AIDS would still leave the body in a likely incurable state. Still, that would certainly prolong the lives of those diagnosed with AIDS, so it's still a worthy cause.

      • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ctrl-Z (28806) <tim@timcolem a n .com> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:41PM (#22611436) Homepage Journal
        Oh, I see. So making a vaccine which can help protect the 99.4% of humanity that is not infected is not nearly as exciting as a cure for the 0.6% of humanity living with HIV?
        • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by garett_spencley (193892) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:50PM (#22611474) Journal
          No one is understating the importance of a vaccine, and should one be developed it will be a day to celebrate. However, a cure would be more exciting.

          Why ?

          Because a cure will "save" the 0.6% of the population AND leave the remaining 99.4% of the population with the peace of mind of knowing that in the unfortunate event that they do contract HIV they are not completely fsck'd.

          Of course the best scenario would be both a vaccine and a cure.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Use a rubber. Don't sleep with the cracked out looking girl you just met at the bar.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by PMBjornerud (947233)

              Use a rubber. Don't sleep with the cracked out looking girl you just met at the bar.
              Don't get born in Africa. Don't get raped by cracked out looking guy waiting behind the bushes.

              Not everything is a choice.
            • Yes, only the ugly filthy people get sick.

              And showering washes away all your sins ... and colonics mean you can eat whatever you want.

              *rolleyes*
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by corsec67 (627446)
          And then what percentage of that 99.4% is a) going to get HIV, and b) is at risk for HIV?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ucblockhead (63650)
          Yes. Because we already know how to help protect 99.4% of humanity that is not infected. It's called a "condom". It's not perfect, obviously, but it has greatly reduced the spread of HIV in most western countries.

          Besides, a complete cure doesn't just help that 0.6%...it also helps that 99.4% to the extent that they are at risk of getting the disease.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Wizard Drongo (712526)
            A condom? Really? Wow. I had no idea that a simple condom could filter out the HIV in infected blood, or prevent HIV being passed from mother to child in-utero.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by s7uar7 (746699)
          If you cure the 0.6% then it's going to be pretty difficult for the other 99.4% to catch it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by freeweed (309734)
            That only works if you manage to cure 100% of the 0.6%. Considering the incubation times of HIV, I'll go with the vaccine as the more effective method, thanks.
      • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mikael (484) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:08PM (#22611570)
        That's nothing new to the industry - I was watching an old Horizon documentary from the 1980's on genetic research - one of the interviewed researched stated that "Every time there is a new discovery in genetic research, there is always the assumption that this is the final piece of the jigsaw put into place. Invariably this is proved to be not the case." There is always another receptor/gene/protein found that has a moderating effect on whatever interaction is being studied.
      • I also want to point out that it would be near impossible to make anything but a vaccine out of this discovery.

        That's nonsense. If you knew anything about vaccines, you'd know that it's pretty much impossible to make a vaccine out of this discovery. But it might lead to a treatment.
      • Re:Holy crap! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:18PM (#22611622)

        That research lab at Alberta is know for releasing under-researched findings before complete testing is applied.
        Is it? The parent is "insightful" for making unsubstantiated accusations of acodemic impropriety with their research, yet provides no links or another kind of support, yet it's "insightful"?
      • by digitalderbs (718388) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:33PM (#22611698)
        I'm always suspicious whenever I see ostensibly "high-impact" summaries that link to press releases of work that is either unpublished or published in low impact journals. In this case, I haven't looked up the impact factor of the journal PLoS pathogens (article [plospathogens.org]), but I do biophysics research on HIV and I've never heard of this journal. As a useful general rule, science articles shouldn't appear on here (and waste everyone's time) unless they've been submitted through a peer-reviewed journal (not the case here), and I think they should hit high-impact journals like Science, Nature, Cell, PNAS, ...
        • I understand your concern, but the value of the science doesn't depend on the journal it's submitted to and probably shouldn't be evaluated as such.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ruinevil (852677)
            It should be peer-reviewed at least... Nicer journals can request better experts in the peer review process, who understand the methods, hypotheses, and may point to some other papers that go against or help the findings. Plospathogens is an new open-access peer-review journal. It might be good in the future, but not right now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ceifeira (1230772)
          All PLoS journals are peer reviewed [plos.org]. Impact factor for 2006 was around 6.0 [plos.org] (based on 6 months of publications, likely to increase). Most PLoS's are second-tier publications behind the usual suspects. Your ignorance of this journal does not constitute invalidity of research that is published in it; it merely points out, well, your ignorance.
        • by Rhabarber (1020311) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:57PM (#22612190)
          PLoS Pathogens currently has an ISI Impact Factor of 6.1 [plos.org].
          This is not comparable to to Nature, Science or PLoS Biology but for a specialized journal it's quite high.

          The good thing about the PLoS Journals is that they rank quite high _and_ the articles are open accessible by day one. This means that an ordinary slashdot user (not sitting in a rich lab or library that has spent truckloads of money to access the most important journals in its field) has the chance to _read_ the f#@*ing primary resarch article.

          As said, the paper is here [plosjournals.org] although the site is down for maintenance at the moment ;).
        • by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @07:01PM (#22612204) Homepage

          As a useful general rule, science articles shouldn't appear on here (and waste everyone's time)

          You seem to have a misguided interpretation of the role and purpose of Slashdot...

    • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:29PM (#22611350)
      There are a lot of things that block HIV in cell culture.

      Yet after literally hundreds of millions in financing, there isn't yet any real curative treatment. Why? Because HIV is a retrovirus with one of the worst polymerases known. It's just so bad at copying itself, that any treatment applied in-vivo acts only as a selective pressure.

      Same is the case for HIV vaccines - even though there ARE conserved regions of the virus, they aren't very good targets, and the ones that are good targets are too antigenically fluid to be targeted.

      In the end, my opinion as a virologist is that stopping the spread of HIV, and continuing to develop a larger palette of inhibitors are the proper solutions to the HIV problem. If we treat the people who have been infected, and don't infect any more... HIV will not be a problem after 2 generations.
      • by KillerBob (217953) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:14PM (#22611590)

        In the end, my opinion as a virologist is that stopping the spread of HIV, and continuing to develop a larger palette of inhibitors are the proper solutions to the HIV problem. If we treat the people who have been infected, and don't infect any more... HIV will not be a problem after 2 generations.


        You'd be a good person to ask this one of, then.... is there any truth to the theory that over time, humans will develop a natural immunity to HIV in the same way that cats have largely developped immunity to Feline Leukemia and FIV?
        • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:21PM (#22611638)
          It's possible... but ironically it's likely to happen if Africa continues to receive inadequate quantities of drugs. You see, evolution only works this way, when the mutations you're looking for provide a reproductive advantage. If we can treat HIV-infected patients in such a way that allows them to successfully reproduce (and modern medications taken appropriately already do), then there is no selective pressure for such a resistance to develop. Even if a minor selective pressure does exist, it's not significant enough to cause a shift in dominant genes rapidly enough to provide us with natural immunity before our knowledge of biology will surpass the ability of HIV to fight back.
        • Maybe, but modern medicine is not doing evolution any favours be letting people who would otherwise quickly die live and reproduce.
        • You'd be a good person to ask this one of, then.... is there any truth to the theory that over time, humans will develop a natural immunity to HIV in the same way that cats have largely developped immunity to Feline Leukemia and FIV?

          Try it the other way around. For a virus, as for any parasite, killing off the host is a bad move. Taking the point of view of the HIV virus, its best move is to delay the onset of AIDS as long as possible, to maximise its chances of infecting new hosts. We might not evolve to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        In the end, my opinion as a virologist is that stopping the spread of HIV, and continuing to develop a larger palette of inhibitors are the proper solutions to the HIV problem. If we treat the people who have been infected, and don't infect any more... HIV will not be a problem after 2 generations.

        Good luck implementing that plan in Africa.
        Even with US & UN aids money they can't afford to provide, to everyone, the generics made by countries that have broken US pharma patents.

    • by mapkinase (958129)
      Gene therapy has been struggling for years to produce a reliable and safe solution. It has been marred by deadly side effects and unfortunate personal troubles of the leading scientist in that field [wikipedia.org]. A friend of mine worked in one of the start ups around the millennium switch time.
    • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cadallin (863437) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:38PM (#22611414)
      No, It is not even potentially a cure for AIDS. It does look like it might offer a route for immunization, or at least increased resistance. This would still be an incredible breakthrough, but it is important to keep perspective on what the realities are.

      Always Remember: AIDS is Deadly. It is not a "chronic condition." It is a death sentence, maybe it'll take 5, even 10 years to kill some small group of victims, for many it is as few as 6-24 months. Way, way to many young people somehow manage to remain ignorant of this.

      • by sumdumass (711423)
        Well, it could be a step in the cure. I have read all these it would only be useful in vaccinations but, I think sort of a two pronged approach might be possible in a cure.

        Now I know I am taking a lot of liberty here but what if we found something that was 80% effective at curing aids and this was able to contain the other 20% of the virus which could also be killed off by something specific to the gene mutation we make. Imagine it this way, Something else kills or contains the HIV or aids spread. A blood c
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      No, it is not a real cure and replacing a whole human's DNA is not something done routinely today.
    • Obviously our bodies makes TRIM22 to fight against retroviruses already, and it's not good enough. I know that interferon, which activates TRIM22, was an early drug in the fight against HIV.

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WXR-4KCGHS0-3&_user=18704&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000002018&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=18704&md5=f922f45405809276e69864f01d98ef4c [sciencedirect.com]

      According to this study, TRIM22 is one of most inef
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ruinevil (852677)

        According to this study, TRIM22 is one of most ineffectual TRIM proteins against HIV.
        It's probably good against something, since it was positively selected over mammalian evolution.

        http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.ppat.0030197
    • by stevied (169)
      According to TFA, we've already got the gene, the problem is switching it on. You probably also ought to read this comment [slashdot.org], though.
    • Re:Holy crap! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cpricejones (950353) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:49PM (#22612132)
      No. TRIM5alpha has been in the news for quite some time. It's a gene carried by old world monkeys that prevent them from getting HIV. The human version of TRIM5alpha has a mutation which does not protect us from HIV but does protect us from other types of viruses (it's thought). There are experiments that show that TRIM5alpha prematurely disassembles the capsid cores of HIV particles as they are infecting cells. These cores contain the viral RNA as it is being made into viral DNA for insertion into the host cell genome.

      So you can imagine the interest in TRIM genes and proteins. Just Pubmed TRIM5alpha and you'll see many articles. TRIM22 is probably a homologue of TRIM5alpha. The article does not seem to mention anything about TRIM5alpha probably because it makes it seem like their work has already been done. See below for the original finding:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14985764?ordinalpos=110&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum [nih.gov]
  • Assuming that this is a real cure for AIDS, will it be patented away and made prohibitively expensive, or will it be made available at low cost to those who need it?
    • Like pretty much all life-saving drugs, it will be patented and too expensive for the majority of HIV victims to use it
    • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:37PM (#22611406)
      Can we please stop the trolling?

      Science is expensive. Large-scale high-throughput biomedical science is even more expensive. Clinical trials are EVEN MORE expensive. Where do you expect that the money for all of that comes from.

      It seems that on Slashdot, the prevalent opinion is that we should all get whatever we want, whenever we want, for free (or nearly free). That's not how the real world works. Many scientists are working on important biological pathways... but it is largely with the financing of the pharmaceutical companies, that they are able to translate their discoveries into drugs.

      Could we improve the system? Of course.
      Should we ban consumer-targeting pharmaceutical advertisement? Absolutely.
      Should we heavily regulate drug companies? Certainly.

      But one thing we should be careful about doing, is assuming that all biomedical science will be miraculously well-financed if drug companies disappear.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I agree with you that we shouldn't be naive about the costs of such things as medication. But the fact is that, when you claim that the prevalent opinion here is that "we should all get whatever we want, whenever we want, for free", you're equating a group of geeks' attitudes towards software with someone who earns maybe $1 a day needing treatment that will prolong/save their life - and allow them to keep earning minimum wage so that their children aren't out on the street.

        So, yeah, we have to take into
        • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:16PM (#22611614)
          Well, I think you've hit the nail on the head. But consider this - your argument essentially boils down to saying that healthcare is a human right. And for those who are about to spew bile at me for saying that, please read the rest of the post.

          Let's compare healthcare to food, for instance. In the civilized world, it's a nearly universal agreement, that people should have enough food to survive. Hence, the different forms of welfare programs, food stamps, etc... We provide people who are poor, with enough money or money equivalents, to obtain sufficient sustenance. We don't, however, provide them with 5-course chef-prepared meals every night.

          The problem is, however, that people who flame the government and "corporations" for not providing medication for everyone, are essentially suggesting that we provide full healthcare for everyone... which equates to giving out filet mignon welfare, given the costs of many cutting edge drugs and treatments. Now I don't have a problem with the concept of this "filet mignon welfare"... except that I cannot personally afford it... and neither can you.

          So as a society, we will at some point have to face the realization that we cannot provide the highest quality healthcare to every member of our society, no matter how hard we try. I wish I had the solution to this problem, but I do not. If I come up with one, I promise to share it with the world, as there is nothing more I'd like to see, than a world where the only diseases people die of, are ones for which cures and treatments haven't been discovered yet. But that's not a world of today, nor do I envision such a world in the near future.
          • by KiahZero (610862)
            Your analogy fails. Current healthcare for the indigent is more like, "We'll give you water. Go find food on your own. If you can't, too bad, sucks to be you."

            If you're suggesting that it's in any way just for one's health outcome to be determined by their access to resources, I suggest that your definition of "justice" needs some work.
          • We provide people who are poor, with enough money or money equivalents, to obtain sufficient sustenance. We don't, however, provide them with 5-course chef-prepared meals every night.

            True, quite true.

            However, there is a slight difference between the prescriptions that fight Parkinson's Disease and Foie Gras.

            My income comes from things that have been heavily researched. The raw materials for what I engineer are quite cheap compared to what I charge for the finished product. ($2-3k in materials and then so
          • by pclminion (145572)

            But the amount of healthcare provided can be a spectrum, not all or nothing. I believe that for a nation to call itself a civilization, certain things must be assured to its population. Food, as in your example, is one of those things. Another is that a person will not die from a preventable cause when there is a treatment or some other form of action available. A country which allows its citizens to die needlessly is not a civilization.

            This is not the same as doing everything possible. But citizens physi

          • Your analogy is bad and here is why:

            Better food does not = better nutrition or a better odds at survival. It just tastes better. Therefore, it's a *luxury*. Better healthcare does directly impact your odds of survival -- by quite a large margin. In fact, we don't even provide most people with "bread and butter" healthcare. Emergency rooms are required to treat you by law (given that is actually an emergency) and for many people that's the only healthcare they will receive.

            By the time it's an emergency, w
          • by sjames (1099)

            If the person you're "feeding" dies of malnutrition, then you didn't actually provide them with sufficient sustenance, much less fine dining.

            Likewise if someone dies of a treatable condition, you didn't actually provide sufficient health care.

            Not providing filet mignon healthcare means no facelifts, tummy tucks and so on. It could even mean limiting reconstructive surgery to functional goals. Perhaps they just have to put up with minor allergies. A ward or rather than a private hospital room. That can

      • Can we please stop the trolling? ...
        It seems that on Slashdot, the prevalent opinion is that we should all get whatever we want, whenever we want, for free (or nearly free).
        Who's trolling here? This isn't file sharing we're talking about...

        "Whatever we want, whenever we want...?" Things like, I don't know, NOT dying horribly?
      • by xenocide2 (231786) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:34PM (#22611710) Homepage
        Worry not. This breakthrough was found at the publicly financed University of Alberta. You can keep on crowing about how much Medicine costs to Discover, but the pharma companies spend a lot on computer generated bees and animated restless legs as they do research, and even more on direct marketing to physicians.

        If you read the last paragraph of the article (I know, "Read? this is slashdot!") they mention who actually paid for this. In the name of public education, I'll duplicate it for you:

        Barr's research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research. The findings are published in the Public Library of Science Pathogens.
        .

        Your hypothesis that the current system is well financed by pharma companies may be incorrect...
        • Even more premature (Score:3, Informative)

          by TheMeuge (645043)
          But it's not a treatment! It's just a couple of pieces of data.

          It's a in-vitro study of one tiny aspect of one pathway that MAY be helpful in TRYING to create a treatment.

          If a cure is a 20-layer cake, these people have created a recipe for the syrup for the cream, for one of the layers. According to you, that negates the need to buy ingredients, find out the recipes for the other layers, hire the chef, or actually make the cake!
    • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:04PM (#22611546) Journal
      It will be both. AIDS medicine has a reduced patent allowance on them. They also have a expedited approval system. You can thank Reagan and Clinton years for that. So while yes, it would likely be patented away, it would only be so for a fraction of the time other drugs enjoy.

      But that doesn't mean it would be out of the reach of the poor either. Every poor person has access to medical in the US through welfare SCHIP and several other programs. There might be a very small amount of people who don't. This leaves the not so poor who don't have insurance and there is two ways to attack that. The first is all major drug company has a medication assistance program where they provide drugs at reduced costs or ever free of charge to people having problems affording it. The draw back is that you can't buy a new boat and claim the payment makes it so you can't afford it. The other way is SSI. AIDS would be counted as a disabling disease and in most every situation you would be eligible for some coverage under SSI.

      That of course is US centric, but any country other then the US has the ability to get the same deals and programs going. The berne convention has provisions for violating patents in emergencies, Canada has pulled this exemption to make generic ciprocal or whatever it was during the anthrax scare. I suppose that if any other country couldn't provide the medication for it's population and it was a problem in their country, it could be seen as an emergency. But I don't think it would be advisable to manipulate it too much.
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:26PM (#22611328) Homepage Journal
    I'd be interested to know if this explains the phenomenon, discovered a few years ago, that some rare individuals seem to be immune to HIV despite repeatedly engaging in unsafe sex.

    • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:31PM (#22611370)
      They are only immune to one of the subtypes of the virus, due to the mutations of the cellular receptor that the virus uses for entry. There are a variety of strains of the virus that will still infect them, albeit not nearly as productively as those without these mutations.
    • by Mex (191941)
      I can't provide links right now, but there were a few prostitutes in Africa that received a lot of coverage because they were apparently immune to HIV.

      That was about 5 years ago, but last year they were confirmed to have developed aids. This was much less publicized, I suppose because it's such a downer.

      So it's still not really confirmed that anyone is immune to HIV - be careful (Then again, this is slashdot, so maybe you don't have to worry too much ;) )
  • by retech (1228598) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:48PM (#22611464)
    People who survived the Plague in Europe either did not encounter it or almost universally had a genetic anomaly commonly referred to as the delta-32 marker. Their ancestors survive other diseases because of this causing what amounts to an odd protein binding issue on the cellular level. Those people are also naturally immune to HIV.

    Read more:
    wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
    pbs [pbs.org]
    • 1. CCR5 delta 32 is not super common, with a gene frequency of about .1 across Europe as a whole and maxing at about .23 in Ashkenaz jews. Evidence indicates that the black plague ceased to be common because of human resistance to it; which means that a gene frequency of .1 would not protect a whole population, which means it can't be the sole cause of surviving black plague.

      2. You need two copies of CCR5 delta 32 for it to truly protect someone, .1 x .1 = .01 , so about 1% of European are immune to HIV
  • What?!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    No radicals screaming "If we vaccinate everyone now, everyone will feel free to go and have promiscuous sex!"? I'm disappointed.
  • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:55PM (#22611502)
    'cause I hadn't watched it in a long time, but Ian says something interesting: Life will always find a way. Meaning, there will always be a tension between our genes trying to evolve out of disease, and the disease out-evolving our adaptations by employing its own. I hate to sound cynical, but even if this were a cure, HIV will find another way or be supplanted by another disease more powerful.
    • You're right. So we should stop this research, 'cause the bugs will just get stronger. While we're at it, let's stop improving agriculture, 'cause the Earth is just going to get more populated anyway. In fact, why do anything, we're just going to die anyway.

      Personally, I think Ian's statement about life always finding a way is a great movie line... and that's about it. What is life finding a way for? To live, and adapt? So what you're telling me is that life in general finds a way to live, to survive,
      • by vanyel (28049) *
        What is life finding a way for?

        Because life that doesn't find a way to live, doesn't. As a result, all that's left is life that does.

  • by wasteur (889134) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:57PM (#22611512)
    As the article says, the researchers are going to find out why this gene isn't already stopping HIV infection. I.e. back to square one. This is not a cure, it's an interesting in vitro study. HIV is hard to fix because it evolves so quickly in an individual, in response to the immune system and anti-retrovirals. It appears already to have evolved around this gene's activity in vivo. Not sure why this is a headline.
  • Can I just remind you all of the hundreds of thousands of people in third world countries over the last 10 years who have DIED from CURED DISEASES. Sure, a vaccine sounds great, but I wont be convinced untill I see people in Africa actually routinely get access to these medical facilities and not just from small time (relative) aid charities. We need a bigger change than just finding cures to more diseases.
    • by couchslug (175151)
      "We need a bigger change than just finding cures to more diseases."

      "We"? The problem is the behavior of the African adults who choose to spread disease in Africa. Africans should be blamed for their behaviorial choices, including relentless behaviors that propagate disease. This isn't bigotry, it's putting blame where it is deserved.
      • by PCM2 (4486)
        Yeah. If those dirty savages would just stop getting bitten by mosquitoes, they'd have no more problems. But you can't teach 'em.
  • by Veramocor (262800) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:06PM (#22611556)
    And it always mutates.
  • by Robber Baron (112304) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:15PM (#22611604) Homepage

    A team of researchers at the University of Alberta claims to have discovered a gene capable of blocking HIV thereby preventing the onset of full blown AIDS.
    It's called trilevinassalone.
  • by McGiraf (196030)
    Let the pan-world orgy begin!
  • In an episode of Family Guy, an example [milkandcookies.com] of Peter Griffin's skill at breaking bad news is shown.
  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @12:02AM (#22613614) Homepage Journal
    missing tag. AIDS is a master of the virus's trick of the trade, rapid mutation. To block something thoroughly and reliably requires blocking a key step in a way that is not trivial to circumvent, because mutation adapts to very simple blocks very rapidly.

    I don't see anything here that even remotely sounds like this was a well-thought-out fix. These sorts of discoveries are usually by chance, try this, try that, and observe results. If it only takes one very minor change in the viruse's DNA (RNA?) to get around this, it won't take any time to work it out.

    The more well-thought-out methods are more likely to succeed or at least to hold up longer. Now while Jurassic Park did find a way around it, the concept of stopping reproduction by making the entire population female, in theory is a very well thought out measure and is not trivial to bypass. You'd put a lot more stock in that than if they had say, injected the dinos with something that sterilized them. This looks more like a random attack with results that are not even remotely understood.

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