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Medicine Australia Science

Australian Scientists Discover Potential Aids Cure 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the saving-lives dept.
smi.james.th writes "Several sites report that Australian researcher David Harrich and his team have potentially discovered a way to stop HIV becoming AIDS and ultimately cure the disease. From the article: 'What we've actually done is taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we've changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it actually impedes virus replication and does it quite strongly.' This could potentially hail one of modern medicine's greatest victories."
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Australian Scientists Discover Potential Aids Cure

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:24AM (#42623429)

    A big contributing factor toward why Australia's medical research is so strong at an international scale is the fact it's often academic and/or ultimately government funded.

    The Australian government doesn't care about big pharma (which doesn't have an especially large presence in AU, relatively speaking) making profits, it cares about better health care for it's people, so they live longer, work longer, and pay more taxes.

  • by kilodelta (843627) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:34AM (#42623463) Homepage
    This isn't so much a cure but it does arm the body with immune cells that are resistant to infection. That's a big deal. You'd still be HIV positive but the disease would never develop into the syndrome.

    They're basically using elements of regenerative medicine here.
  • by Suhas (232056) on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:53AM (#42623571)
    Cancer is not one disease but many many diseases under the same banner. In fact, the same type of cancer can be completely different diseases in different people.
    See here. [phdcomics.com]
    I would suggest you refrain from making idiotic remarks about subjects you have no clue about.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @01:56AM (#42623589)

    This in no way arms the body with immune cells that are resistant to infection. This is a virostatic agent, that will stop the virus from replicating inside immune cells. But it does not block free virus from infecting new cells.

  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:29AM (#42623699)

    Gene therapy, in short. They would infect you with a virus (probably a retrovirus, ironically enough) that carries a mutant copy of the HIV-1 Tat gene. Normal Tat is a gene that drastically increases HIV production. HIV hijacks the machinery of human T-cells to make copies of its own genes. The protein that Tat codes for has a nasty trick- it binds to transcription factors in your cells and and increases their output- more HIV production, which includes more Tat production, which causes more HIV production, and the disease explosively progresses. It is thought that reaching a critical mass of Tat is a key element in the transition from HIV infection to AIDS. But if you had a mutant Tat that counteracted this activity, HIV production would only occur at a baseline rate- you'd never get that Tat-HIV-Tat positive feedback.

    Here's the article abstract [liebertpub.com] which has some of the technical details. MLV is the murine (mouse) leukemia virus.

  • by mjwx (966435) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:59AM (#42623785)

    A big contributing factor toward why Australia's medical research is so strong at an international scale is the fact it's often academic and/or ultimately government funded.

    The Australian government doesn't care about big pharma (which doesn't have an especially large presence in AU, relatively speaking) making profits, it cares about better health care for it's people, so they live longer, work longer, and pay more taxes.

    Big Pharma are around, I used to work next to the Pfizer factory in Perth but they have three huge hindrances in Australia.

    1. They aren't allowed to advertise prescription medicine.
    2. They aren't allowed to offer payola to doctors for using their drugs. Both the doctor and the company get busted if they get caught.
    3. Generics are readily available. Instead of buying Panadol (Tylanol) I can get Brand X paracetamol/codeine which is the same recipe but 1/4 the price. The same is true for most prescription drugs.

  • by mrbluze (1034940) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:09AM (#42623817) Journal

    The trouble is that there *have* been a number of cures/vaccines, but HIV mutates so quickly that they were quickly rendered ineffective. HIV can differ significantly even between somebody and the person they were infected by, all depending on how their immune system responds to the infection and what drugs they are given.

    The difference here is that the treatment targets several stages of the HIV "life-cycle". In micribiology targeting a single point of weakness of an organism is relatively quickly circumvented, but targeting many points of weakness has a much more devastating effect.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:54AM (#42623961)

    Um... Doesn't that WP article actually prove you wrong while corroborating just about everything the GP said?

    From the linked FA in your own post:

    Schmidt, an only child, was born on February 24, 1967, in Missoula, Montana, where his father Dana C. Schmidt was a fisheries biologist. When he was 13, his family relocated to Anchorage, Alaska.

    Schmidt attended Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, and graduated in 1985. He has said that he wanted to be a meteorologist "since I was about five-years-old" but "... I did some work at the USA National Weather Service up in Anchorage and didn't enjoy it very much. It was less scientific, not as exciting as I thought it would be—there was a lot of routine. But I guess I was just a little naive about what being a meteorologist meant." His decision to study astronomy, which he had seen as "a minor pastime", was made just before he enrolled at university. He earned his BS (Physics) and BS (Astronomy) from the University of Arizona in 1989. He received his MA (Astronomy) in 1992 and then PhD (Astronomy) in 1993 from Harvard University. Schmidt's PhD thesis was supervised by Robert Kirshner and used Type II Supernovae to measure the Hubble Constant.

    At Harvard, he met his future wife, the Australian (Jenny) Jennifer M. Gordon who was a PhD student in economics. In 1994, he moved to Australia.

    So, Australian citizenship or not (I assume he has it by now), it's kind of a stretch to accurately describe the guy as Australian.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:04AM (#42624313)

    Haha, Oh my days.

    As a doctor in the UK who has worked in the largest centre for HIV in Europe (Chelsea and Westminster hospital, at the GUM/infectious diseases centre there) I can tell you that fewer people are dying of AIDS for the exact reason you mock, drugs are saving their lives. These aren't wonder drugs, and they aren't nice drugs for your body in many ways, but they do work well.

    Here's a great page describing the HAART and modified HAART regimes that we mostly use nowadays http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1533218-overview

    To give you an idea of how effective these treatments are life expectancy in someone newly diagnosed with HIV with a high CD4 count in the UK is now expected to be only one year less than if they had not been infected. Not that that means their life will be easy, the drugs have a lot of side effects and they will often be very ill for a long time before they die, and the drugs cost a lot, but they will live.

  • by stymy (1223496) <pdezuviria@@@gmail...com> on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:23AM (#42624377)
    Actually, not all of what you said is true. Most of the costs associated with health care are incurred at the end of a person's life, and things like retirement homes, long stays at hospitals, and whatnot cost a fortune in the first world. Tobacco taxes cost the NHS about 5 billion pounds a year (source:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8086142.stm), while tobacco taxes bring in over 12 billion pounds a year (source:http://www.the-tma.org.uk/tma-publications-research/facts-figures/tax-revenue-from-tobacco/). The truth is that smokers die young and pay thousands of dollars a year in taxes, so they actually subsidize healthcare for other people. Governments promote health because that's one of the purposes of governments, and healthy people are more productive, but unhealthy people come cheaper for socialized healthcare and social insurance, such as government pensions.

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