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Medicine Science

Italian Team Cures Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome With the Help of HIV 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the bending-it-to-our-will dept.
New submitter tchernobog writes "An Italian team funded by Telethon and S. Raffaele of Milan, was able to cure six kids affected by lethal genetic diseases (in Italian, English video): the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and the metachromatic leukodystrophy. This is the culmination of a project lasted 15 years, and which cost more than 30M €; the researchers published some preliminary results last year in Nature, and are waiting for the results on more patients to submit another. The really interesting part is: they used a mix of advanced genetic techniques to achieve this result. Firstly, the DNA of a defective cell is corrected with a gene assembled in the lab. This procedure has been very dangerous for the past 20 years: that it can even be used is a good achievement alone. Secondly, the corrected DNA is propagated in the patient's body using a stripped-down version of HIV, of which less than 10% of its original genome remains. Might the feared HIV in reality prove to be salvation for some?"
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Italian Team Cures Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome With the Help of HIV

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  • Italy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:37AM (#44261771)
    Soon after, the Italian government put them in prison on charges of manslaughter for not curing all genetic illnesses when clearly they could have saved lives. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/22/us-italy-earthquake-court-idUSBRE89L0WM20121022 [reuters.com]
  • Oblig. XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:44AM (#44261829)

    http://xkcd.com/938/

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:46AM (#44261859)

    So... they can make a disease now that re-sequences our DNA? Anyone else find that terrifying?

    • by TWX (665546)
      Maybe that terrible James Bond movie with the Korean guy turning into Hugh Grant wasn't as far off-the-mark as we thought it was...
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:59AM (#44261975) Homepage

      First of all, it doesn't resequence DNA (if that is really a valid concept). It just ADDS a small bit of DNA into the genome.

      Just like viruses have been doing since, well, since there were viruses. But yes, it's potentially scary. So are nuclear weapons, particle beam accelerators and most politicians.

      Man up here. It's a big, dangerous world.

      And you're not getting out alive.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If we're choosing deaths could you please point me to the particle beam accelerator que?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        start doing things like extending telomeres, and overiding sections related to aging with this, and you might just get out alive.

      • by PRMan (959735)

        First of all, it doesn't resequence DNA (if that is really a valid concept). It just ADDS a small bit of DNA into the genome.

        Just like viruses have been doing since, well, since there were viruses. But yes, it's potentially scary. So are nuclear weapons, particle beam accelerators and most politicians.

        Man up here. It's a big, dangerous world.

        And you're not getting out alive.

        Speak for yourself. I plan on going up in the rapture with Jesus...

        • Speak for yourself. I plan on going up in the rapture with Jesus...

          Meh, no doubt so did most people present during the monologue of Matthew 16:27-28 [biblehub.com].

          Ha ha, but clearly the joke was on them because Jesus must have known that the Wandering Jew [wikipedia.org] was standing just behind the disciples. I mean, that's basic Occam's Razor, right?

          Right?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Gene therapy has been a thing for a while now. This is not new.

      Sure, could there be some Eugenics Wars using viruses to wipe out the weak and leave only the strong? Probably.
      But there has been wars since humans have existed, before, and will continue even when (if) we leave the planet and become a fully developed space society. There will be rebels, space pirates and all those fun things just like always.
      Even in a world where all the necessities of life were met and only luxuries costed any money, and ev

      • as for the food being infected you could irradiate the food killing all of the contagions

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          Ya can't fool me, that involves RAY-DEE-AY-SHUN, we all dun found out that stuff is bad for ya.

          • by Lotana (842533)

            That is right! Did you know that those ignorant suckers are not aware that light is radiation! Every second they spend outside they get bombarded with it! Fools! Sane people like us stay in basements and only come out at night.

  • by Infiniti2000 (1720222) on Friday July 12, 2013 @10:54AM (#44261931)
    I hope this isn't the real-world beginnings of the t-Virus.
    • The scary bit is that something of that sort might already have happened somewhere behind closed doors...in 50 - 75 years when documents are declassified you might hear about it. -Unless we have an Edward Snowden moment.
      • by krakelohm (830589)

        in 50 - 75 years when documents are declassified you might hear about it. -Unless we have an Edward Snowden moment.

        Or we have a Resident Evil moment...

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          Yeah, well, may I speak for legions of geeks who say our idea of a Resident Evil Moment is a night with some wicked hot dark-haired, green-eyed babe who favors tight leather -- and is rather acrobatic.

  • Next step is to use HIV to get rid of that other disease.
  • "stripped-down" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:12AM (#44262099)

    There have been a number of these headlines the past few years and they all use the sensationalist headline of "HIV CURES DISEASE" which simply is not true. What is true is that genetic mechanisms that HIV, a lentivirus, uses to engineer cells are being re-purposed for medical benefit. The basic technique has been used in the laboratory for ages but the big headline here is not HIV but genetic engineering. This is as much HIV helping to cure a disease as getting X-rays at the dentist amounts to "DEATH RAY HELPS PREVENT CAVITIES!"

    • Thanks for clearing that up, I obviously originally thought that the cure was to go down on a few dirty man-whores in a back alley, but I am glad researches found a better way to do it.

    • Re:"stripped-down" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday July 12, 2013 @01:21PM (#44263479) Homepage Journal

      The basic technique has been used in the laboratory for ages

      Yeah, a friend of mine worked for a private research lab a decade ago and they were curing MS in mice models using an HIV vector, as just SOP (the HIV vector part was already old at that point). BTW, they abandoned that work for something that could pay the bills as they didn't have a business model that could earn enough to pay for the FDA-mandated trials. He tells me this kind of thing happens at labs all over the country and when it's a for-profit lab, they don't publish if they're going to reuse part of the tech in their next endeavor.

      • by Lotana (842533)

        I am curious: Why HIV in particular? Aren't all viruses work by chaning genetic structure of a cell?

  • What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

  • Only science can turn a scourge into a cure!
    • Thats sort of like saying "only math can add these two numbers together".

      • by Zaatxe (939368)

        Thats sort of like saying "only math can add these two numbers together".

        Some religious people can argue that faith can also add two numbers together, if you catch my drift...

  • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:21AM (#44262185)

    These stories always play off the "we're using scary HIV to cure you" angle, but they're just using components stolen from the HIV virus as tools or building-blocks to make something useful.

    You might as well write a story that portrays bear-skin rugs as scary and dangerous because they were once part of a whole live bear.

    And actually pretty much all of our recombinant DNA tools as well as many drugs like antibiotics are simply ancient things we stole from bacteria and other life forms. Somewhat annoyingly, Nature and 3+ billion years of evolution are still a lot better than we are at inventing things.

    My definition of modern biology that I use to introduce it to computer people is: Hacking into ancient alien computer systems (stochastic digital computers not designed by the mind of man) to look for technology we can steal to cure cancer, solve world hunger, and produce renewable energy as well as whatever else we discover along the way.

    G.

    • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:37AM (#44262367)

      MITx is offering the second session of their free massively open course 7.00x on Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life taught by one of the best teachers I have ever listened to, Eric Lander of MIT, which starts on Sept 10th:

      https://www.edx.org/course/mit/7-00x/introduction-biology-secret-life/1014 [edx.org]

      This class is mostly about the molecular biology machinery that makes cells work, and it should be fascinating to anyone who finds the way computers work interesting because most of what goes on at the cellular level is actually information processing and digital operations (though based on stochastic principles).

      Warning: this class might make you want to (or wish you could) change your career path...

      G.

    • I understand the science here, and mostly agree with your statement, but your analogy is disingenous. Bear skin rugs are typically capable of neither reproduction nor mutation.
      • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:54PM (#44263185)

        True. Depending on the processes involved, the chance that a live intact HIV virus inadvertently makes it through the system into a patient is probably greater than getting home from the rug store to find out that a live bear made it through the rug making process.

        But on the other hand one of the researchers involved (or even TFA) might be able to explain to your satisfaction that the chances of these two different events are actually quite similar due to the methods being employed to produce the synthetic biology product.

        G.

      • by RJFerret (1279530)

        According to the pictures I've seen in Playboy when I'm flipping between articles, it seems bear skin rugs contribute more than 10% toward potential reproductive activities (fireplaces another 10%, amazing what we can turn these destructive forces to). I haven't seen follow ups to know if there's been any distinct mutations as the result of any reproduction due to the bear skin rugs or fires.

  • by zbobet2012 (1025836) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:47AM (#44262467)
    It is here folks, we just did it, and we did it on a living human being. Take a moment to think about what that means.
  • Warning: This product might give you nausea, dry mouth, or AIDS.

    • by iamacat (583406)

      Hmm, for diseases we are talking about AIDS is wastly preferable to the original condition.

  • they pass on HIV DNA into the human genome? BRILLIANT.
  • Is still only 5 million per life saved, which I think is a fair bargain. That's of course if they simply stop there. 30M for the development of a single drug is chump change in Pharma industry. 30M for a process that will define a whole new branch of medicine is amazing.

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