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Biotech Science

Integrated HIV Successfully Cut Out of Human Genome 185

Chris writes "German scientists have succeeded in snipping HIV out of human cells after it has integrated itself into a patient's DNA. The procedure is a breakthrough in bio-technology and fuels hope of a cure for AIDS. The group is only cautiously optimistic, though, as treating a full-on infection would be substantially different than succeeding in a controlled lab environment. 'Researchers ... began with the bacterial enzyme Cre recombinase, which exchanges any two pieces of DNA flanked on either end by a certain pattern of nucleotides (DNA subunits) known as loxP. HIV does not naturally contain loxP sites, so the team created a hybrid of the two DNA molecules, which they used to select a series of mutated Cre enzymes that were increasingly able to recognize the combined DNA. The final enzyme, Tre, removed all traces of HIV from cultured human cervical cells after about three months, the researchers report online today in Science.'"
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Integrated HIV Successfully Cut Out of Human Genome

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  • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @08:48AM (#19687743)
    They are about 26 different stains of HIV. Article didn't mention it but I am curious if each strain might require a different technique or if this is strain independent? Either way pretty cool stuff.
  • by BlueLightSpecial ( 898144 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @09:04AM (#19687863) Journal
    It may be 'cheating' but it does prove that the process can be done. It proves that one can cut HIV, albeit a prepared version, out of DNA If the procedure can be done under perfect lab conditions, it can be tweaked and changed to work outside the lab A major accomplishment if you ask me
  • by gravos ( 912628 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @09:05AM (#19687873) Homepage
    I read the first part of the article and it sounds like a pretty complex process. I don't think the summary is bad, just technical.
  • by DaveCar ( 189300 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @09:17AM (#19687965)

    Bleh, TFS sounded like the virus/mutation conversation from Bladerunner to me.
  • by StuckInSyrup ( 745480 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @10:18AM (#19688615)

    Maybe a genetically-engineered virus designed to attack various HIV strains?

    No. That's not how a virus works. A virus, outside of a living cell is a inert bunch of proteins, nucleic acids and sometimes lipids. A "genetically-engineered" virus could only work if it would infect the same cell as the HIV. If two different viruses infect the same cell, a process called interference can occur. This can screw both of the virus types, but the cell is screwed as well. And to kill all of the HIV infected cells, we would need the engineered virus to be more infective as HIV. So essentialy we would end up killing HIV with some kind of uber-HIV. No good.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @10:27AM (#19688697)
    They've done it in vitro in a lab. Which is a good start, but that doesn't mean you can now safely screw anything that walks.

    They probably haven't developed anything which they could conceivably be administered to a living organism yet - let alone tried administering it to one. Then you've got a battery of tests to make sure it's safe and effective - there's probably at least another 10 years before this could really be a treatment.

    The great majority of potential treatments never make it through that development/testing process.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 29, 2007 @10:30AM (#19688743)

    It just so happens that most of the people afflicted happen to be from developing or poor countries, and hence, are not the target market segment for big pharma.
    Hold on there squirt. You think there could possibly be a reason most people afflicted are in developing/poor countries? That pretty much says we have solved the problem already. Consider if all the other countries are unaffected then obviously the problem is able to be taken care of (assuming proper assets are available).

    This says it's a logical problem not a technology problem. Most 3rd world countries are 3rd world countries because of their ass governmental design.
  • by torstenvl ( 769732 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @11:14AM (#19689303)
    You fail at reading comprehension.

    HIV does not naturally contain loxP sites, so the team created a hybrid of the two DNA molecules, which they used to select a series of mutated Cre enzymes that were increasingly able to recognize the combined DNA. The final enzyme, Tre, removed all traces of HIV from cultured human cervical cells after about three months, the researchers report online today in Science.
    When "a series of mutated" forms of X are "select[ed for,]" resulting in a "final" Y, that's evolution, not contrivance. The initial cutting with Cre was contrived; Tre is a new enzyme which doesn't need the LoxP sites and recognizes HIV as it is.

    Basically, they played that "You have 5 steps to change NET to PAWN changing/adding/removing one letter each time: NET NEW SEW SAW PAW PAWN" game with an enzyme.
  • by Bellum Aeternus ( 891584 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @11:55AM (#19689781)
    Sadly, it's because the viral diseases you mentioned tend to happen to poor people, where as the middle and upper classes get the lifestyle diseases. Sad fact of the world is that people tend to do what gathers them the largest amount of resources most easily and fastest. This includes but it not limited to global warming and wars as well. We're talking billions here, not the hundreds of thousands, or even millions that philanthropic organizations could award for prizes. Limited manpower and limited resources mean corporate R&D companies are looking for the easy money first.

    IMO, this would be less of a problem if the United States had socialized medical care like the rest of the modern world. However, since this isn't the case the wealthier people in the US accidentally promote R&D into non live saving medicine because it suits them more, and they're willing to pay. If medical care were socialized, there'd be less of a lure to develop so many "useless" medicines, and more of a lure to develop live saving medicine.

    This work is wonderful, and if it can be developed into a cure - or a catalyst for a cure WONDERFUL! The next step will be to develop a way to produce the cure cheaply, and that is where I think the philanthropic organization come into play. Too bad patents will probably prevent the medicine from seeing wide spread distribution in the poorer areas of the world that are most infected with HIV, like Africa.

    I know people on /. tend to think about the absurdity of software patents, but medical patents can be far more deadly and really need a review when they're used to prevent delivery of medication to people too poor to pay for medicine.
  • by NVP_Radical_Dreamer ( 925080 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @12:11PM (#19690017) Homepage
    Ummm some of us with diabetes did not get a "lifestyle" disease.
    Some of us were born with it...

    But very few are born with aids, most catch it from unprotected sex. Which is why as politically incorrect as it sounds, I dont really care if a cure is found or not. There are many other diseases that need to be cured first which arent preventable, such as cancer (yes i know smoking etc make it worse but some people get cancer having never smoked in their lives)
  • by emil ( 695 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @12:22PM (#19690175)

    One would assume that there are a few critical sequences in the virus, without which it would not function or evolve around. Could the structure of its protein shell be corrupted to cause it to immediately fall apart, a la penicillin? Could changes be made to ensure that it would remain forever dormant?

    It would seem that, with this technique, a little sabotage might get nearly the same benefit as cleaning it all out, for much less effort and risk.

  • by Jorgandar ( 450573 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @02:32PM (#19691993)

    If medical care were socialized, there'd be less of a lure to develop so many "useless" medicines, and more of a lure to develop live saving medicine
    Sorry, you're wrong. (parts of) Europe and canada have socialized medicine, and they're still not researching the TB vaccine. It's not an incentive to develop so-called "life-saving" medicines that are only useful in 3rd world (translated: non-paying) countries.

    Socialised medicine also effectively kills incentive to develop new medicine in general, because the payout for doing such work is not worth the cost and risk.

    Why do you think the vast majority of pharma's operate in the US, and ALL OF THEM consider the US an absolutely critical market. I work in the industry, fyi.

    I'm by no means an advocate for the US system of medicine, but it does provide one hell of an incentive for drug companies to innovate...but only for those who are paying.
  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday June 29, 2007 @03:58PM (#19693289)
    Well, unfortunately, we the United States without a socialized medical program have been subudizing the development of a lot of drugs for the rest world. So we're the ones paying for it $100 a pill at a time. If we don't, who will? As you've said, it takes a lot of money to create a drug. Last I checked the average figure was $800M from development to shelve. At least in the United States. Part of that also has to do with FDA requirements and the burocracy involved with running so many trials, etc.. Not that is a bad thing, but with any drug there are risks that may not be known about until distributed to a larger population group or from prolonged usage that just isn't known at the beginning. But in either case, sometimes that's the price that's paid.

    So if the money pot dries up, who is going to pay for the R&D? Governments who already are struggling to pay for universal coverage? When I lived in Germany, it was starting to become a problem. There just isn't enough in the younger generation to pay for the rest and with 0 population growth....

    And then where is Governments going to spend the money?

    Currently in the United States there is 72 Million people living with high blood pressure. ifier=4621 [] The cause of which is unknown in 90 - 95% of the cases. Probably a combination of diet, excercise, and stress. But how much does each factor cause we still don't know. That is vs. 1 - 2 million with HIV/AIDS. If I am looking at the over all picture, where am I going to allocate the resources. Probably where the money will effect the lives of the most people. After all, that is how socialism works: the greatest good for the greatest number right? I mean all that changes is that people get shafted by the government instead of the HMO.

    And not all forms of Diabetes is lifestyle either. My mother, and that entire side of the family, are all diabetics. None are obese and my mother had it since childhood and my uncle developed it later in life. That and we know there is a genetic link. Now being overweight increases the risk, but lifestyle is not the sole factor.

    To paraphrase George Carlin, "Hmmm, if I'm planet Earth and have too many humans on it, how am I going to fight back. I dunno, maybe create a virus that is spread sexually and destroys the immune system." Yes, it's crual and mean and all that to say, but if AIDS is just that: mother nature's own defense system against us? Something to ponder at least as every attempt by man to do something about it has worked in prolonging life for a while.

    Lastly there is another dirty secret: cure the desiease and guess what, the funding dries up. Same with Cancer. Find a cure and the well's gone. What would the American Cancer Society and other chairty groups do then? Close their doors? Well anyone remember what the March of Dimes was founded to do? Well? The March of Dimes was a charity that supported those with Polio and hoped to one day find a cure. Guess what...they did. And March of Dimes had to find a new cause, birth defects. A nice and general topic that likely will never had an end in terms of need for money.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor