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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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  • 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?
  • by rustalot42684 ( 1055008 ) <> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:23PM (#22611306)
    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?
  • 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 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: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.

  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by snl2587 ( 1177409 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:40PM (#22611430)

    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.timcoleman@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:Holy crap! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:53PM (#22611496)
    We are ages away from confidently using splicer viruses to make genetic changes in active cells without the body rejecting itself before the changes are complete.

    Unless something is discovered that turns everything we know now on its head, which is always a possibility, but currently...i wouldn't even expect that in my great grandchildrens time.
  • 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.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @04:55PM (#22611504)
    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.
  • by psychodelicacy ( 1170611 ) <> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:04PM (#22611544)
    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 account the costs of research, production and so on. But don't call someone greedy when all they want is the chance to live a healthy life.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harry666t ( 1062422 ) <harry666t@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:05PM (#22611548)
    Believe me or not, but there /are/ things that are worse than death...
  • by JamesRose ( 1062530 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:06PM (#22611554)
    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 Veramocor ( 262800 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:06PM (#22611556)
    And it always mutates.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @05:14PM (#22611602) Journal

    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 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 []), 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, ...
  • by Pendersempai ( 625351 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:12PM (#22611920)
    In that case, perhaps filet mignon was a bad example because it is not expensive enough. At some point, people die. Usually, that death can be delayed with medical care. But the further you delay it, the more money it costs, and the cost progression is exponential or perhaps hyperbolic to infinity. So no matter what, eventually you have to pull the plug because you can't afford the next stage of treatment. It's sad, and hopefully someday when our consciousness has been transplanted into circuitry that will not be the case, but until then, we're going to have to continue to put prices on human's lives.
  • by KiahZero ( 610862 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:31PM (#22612034)
    You've got an unstated assumption that you're not addressing: that scarce resources should be awarded to those with more resources. It's tempting to treat this as a given, since it's a premise of an unregulated market, but it's not a necessity.

    If healthcare resources are so scarce that we are unable to effectively treat all members of society, then society must decide how to distribute those resources. As I stated above, it's not justice to award those scarce resources to only one class of people. In the original position, one would likely decide to allocate them either based on an attribute other than wealth, or more likely, allocate them in a random distribution (i.e., if there are two people with terminal cancer, and society can only afford to cure one of them, there's a coin flip).

    I also wonder whether you've considered how much of that scarcity is based on scarcity of physical goods, labor, etc., and how much is artificial scarcity that could be changed by changing societal structure. For instance, if a pharmaceutical company can be compensated so that there is incentive to research new life-saving drugs, while amortizing the cost of said drugs over the whole population, rather than just on a small number of sufferers, it may no longer be the case that the sufferers are forced to compete for access to their medication.
  • by ruinevil ( 852677 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:36PM (#22612050)
    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:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @06:46PM (#22612116) Homepage Journal
    And then what percentage of that 99.4% is a) going to get HIV, and b) is at risk for HIV?
  • 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...

  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @07:01PM (#22612208) Homepage Journal
    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 also helps that 99.4% to the extent that they are at risk of getting the disease.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01, 2008 @07:39PM (#22612410)
    Well, pretty much none if a decent vaccine is developed. that's kind of the point of vaccines.
  • 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:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by s7uar7 ( 746699 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @08:27PM (#22612666) Homepage
    If you cure the 0.6% then it's going to be pretty difficult for the other 99.4% to catch it.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @08:54PM (#22612784)
    Hi, you must be new here. Heck just saying "Bill Gates is the devil" is at least +1 insightful.

    btw, Bill Gates is the devil.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeBabcock ( 65886 ) <> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @09:23PM (#22612878) Homepage Journal
    Go read some statistics. Condoms really suck at preventing even pregnancy, and that requires only blocking items of greater than cellular size, not viral.

    Last package I checked actually required keeping the condoms refrigerated until use and double-wrapping to actually hit their (already less than stellar) prevention rate ... FOR PREGNANCY.

    That's what's wrong with them -- they suck at what they're supposed to do.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Saturday March 01, 2008 @10:11PM (#22613086) Homepage Journal
    Use a rubber. Don't sleep with the cracked out looking girl you just met at the bar.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wizard Drongo ( 712526 ) <> on Saturday March 01, 2008 @10:12PM (#22613090)
    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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @12:55AM (#22613780)
    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.
  • by khayman80 ( 824400 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @03:26AM (#22614230) Homepage Journal


    5) Don't ever get in an accident and need a blood transfusion, because the blood might be infected- especially in poorer nations.

    6) Don't have a mother who had HIV while carrying you. That's a bad choice to make- don't inflict this kind of injury on yourself.

    7) Don't be a woman and get raped by a man who has HIV. That's a bad choice to make- don't inflict this kind of injury on yourself.

  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PMBjornerud ( 947233 ) on Sunday March 02, 2008 @08:55AM (#22615022)

    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.
  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wizard Drongo ( 712526 ) <> on Sunday March 02, 2008 @12:57PM (#22615958)
    True. But you only need to come into contact with it once. Whether that be a blood transfusion that's not been scanned right (as thousands in the eighties and nineties weren't), or some scumbag stabs you with an infected needle (one of the more popular threats of the druggies in Glasgow is "Gies yer cash bawbag, a've got aids, a'll dae ye wie this needle no?"), it still only takes one drop of infected blood to come into contact with your blood and chances are, you're gonna be doing the Philadelphia pretty soon. I acknowledge that thankfully the risk of that is pretty damned low (partying on Saturday night in Argyll Street notwithstanding). My point in my original post was more that too many people in the West, particularly in the USA assume that HIV is still something that people only catch through sex, more specifically gay sex, despite the highest infectious growth group being heterosexual women (this is a BIG problem in Africa given the levels of infection seen in prostitutes; it's kinda like the food vendor getting e-coli. If you get e-coli in your house it's one thing, but when the McDonalds gets it, everyone gets it). A lot of people need to wake up to the fact that AIDS is not a "gay" problem but a world problem. My only hope is they manage to make a vaccine/cure soon. Sure the genome seems fairly stable now, but how long before this fucker becomes airborne? With it's up to 10-year dormancy, how long could it go undetected? I don't know my genetic well enough to say whether or not it could mutate, maybe it's impossible for the HIV to do so, I dunno. But as the Jeff said, "life finds a way". If it did, hell the entire planet could get it without even noticing...

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents