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Medicine Biotech

Researchers Discover Gene That Blocks HIV 333

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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  • 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:Holy crap! (Score:1, Informative)

    by davou ( 1239500 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:28PM (#22611344)
    woah woah, calm down brian. Its definitely good, and big news, but from what I've read so far they've only identified the gene... I'm sure there are all sorts of dangers involved with activating vestigial parts of our DNA. I say we wait for more scientific authority (note that the story is about reasearch at U-Alberta and hosted by U-Alberta. My vote: we keep wearing condoms for a while...
  • 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 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 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 []
    pbs []
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:55PM (#22611498)

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:4, Informative)

    by insertwackynamehere ( 891357 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:20PM (#22611636) Journal
    So in other words unless we progress in this field... we won't progress in this field? How insightful. Good job mods.
  • 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.
  • 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 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:06PM (#22611882)
    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 ceifeira ( 1230772 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:52PM (#22612166)
    All PLoS journals are peer reviewed []. Impact factor for 2006 was around 6.0 [] (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 [].
    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 [] although the site is down for maintenance at the moment ;).
  • by Bored MPA ( 1202335 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @11:58PM (#22613596)
    Seriously, be a prude all you want but don't spread FUD. The odds are 1 in 50 million if you're in a low risk group. This statistic has probably dropped as HIV spread, though not by much. And there's a good reason why:

    If you know your partner has HIV, the odds of getting HIV with a condom is 1 in 5000 sexual acts.

    These are real statistics from the JAMA and widely quoted by the CDC which fields thousands of calls about OMG A CONDOM BROKE WITH MY ONE NIGHT STAND. ODDS: ~1 in 1000 for high risk groups.

    And for the record: 1 time unprotected sex with an HIV+ partner is 1 in 500 odds.

    Of course, more accurate risk analysis would point out that women and receptors of anal sex are more likely to contract HIV.

    And finally, with consistent condom use there is a 2 percent chance of a couple getting pregnant in a year's time.
  • by WillDraven ( 760005 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @03:14AM (#22614204) Homepage
    <quote>I want the average IQ to be 180.</quote>

    I guess we could do that.. or.. you know.. leave the definition of I.Q. alone and let the average intelligence be a nice even 100.

"We want to create puppets that pull their own strings." -- Ann Marion "Would this make them Marionettes?" -- Jeff Daiell