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Biotech Medicine Science

Doctors Will Test Gene Editing On HIV Patients 263

Soychemist writes "Some people have a mutation that makes them highly resistant to HIV, and scientists think that they can give that immunity to anyone with a new type of gene therapy. The first human trials will start at the University of Pennsylvania this week. Researchers will draw blood from people with drug-resistant HIV, clip the CCR5 gene out of their T-cells with a nuclease enzyme, grow the modified cells in a dish, and then return 10 billion of them to the patient's bloodstream. Those cells will be immune to the virus, and they will keep the patient's T-cell count up even if the rest are destroyed. 'We will see if it is safe and if those cells inhibit HIV replication in vivo,' said the lead researcher. 'We know they do in the test tube.'"
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Doctors Will Test Gene Editing On HIV Patients

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  • Price Tag? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @12:40AM (#26721177)

    Hopefully the researchers are successful in their endeavours but you've got to wonder about the costs associated with such a procedure. With something like a 33 million estimated people infected with HIV world-wide I wonder what percentage would actually be able to afford treatment :/

  • Re:bravo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MoellerPlesset2 ( 1419023 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @01:14AM (#26721347)

    With so many people in the developing world suffering from HIV, it would be nice to see something like this fast tracked.

    I doubt they view this as a 'cure'. It's research, in both gene therapy and HIV.
    If it works, I'd assume the next step would be to try to develop a procedure where they did this to bone marrow cells - the cells that produce T-cells - and thus let the body create its own HIV-resistant T-cells. That might work well enough to be a 'cure' - an HIV patient with leukemia was given an HIV-resistant (CCR5) bone-marrow transplant, and is now effectively 'cured'.
    (Though they're careful with the word since HIV virus may still be lurking in the body somewhere)

  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @01:14AM (#26721349) Homepage Journal

    With modern antiretroviral drugs HIV positive patients can live for decades

    Have you looked at federal expenditures on medical care lately? Let's face it, with skyrocketing costs of all of these medical treatments, we're going to need to rethink who lives and who dies, particularly when it comes to preventable diseases that are hideously expensive to treat.

    HIV, lung cancer, some forms of heart disease, ultimately, people will just have to be made comfortable unless they plan on paying for their medical care themselves. It would be one thing if people got insurance for HIV and lung cancer through private insurers who accepted the risks, but, once all taxpayers have to accept that risk, well, its an entirely different contract.

    In that sense, this new genetic treatment is the shape of things to come, where the government experiments on treating on some people with some new drug, because, they aren't going to get anything else.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @01:37AM (#26721471)
    I'm sure your stance would change if you were someone who was in need of treatment and didn't have the appropriate medical insurance.

    I think the real problem is the outrageous cost of treatment. Some drugs being manufactured have higher marketing costs then they do for research.

    Anyway, you seem to have a rather callous view on who should or shouldn't get treatment and I think its deplorable. Your tax dollars pay for far many things that I believe most people would agree that they are not necessary, and I think that its justifiable to pay for treatment for those who need it.

    If your are ever yourself stuck in a situation where you could not afford adequate treatment for health care, though I wish this never happens to you or anyone else for that matter, then I hope you remember what you said in your post.

  • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @01:43AM (#26721495)
    Whoops, that's me there, hit AC by mistake.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @03:04AM (#26721957)

    +1, Interesting? Really?

    You kids today. You make karma whoring too easy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @03:19AM (#26722049)
    I want to mod it interesting now just to spite you.
  • Re:CANCER (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @03:20AM (#26722055) Homepage Journal
    Cancer's one possibility.

    Right now HIV can't attack cells that are missing that gene, and people with that mutation are rare enough that it isn't advantageous/necessary for HIV to develop another mechanism. However if you inject cells with this mutation into someone that doesn't normally have it, and they don't manage to clean out all the HIV from the person's system, then the combination of both of those cells in proximity is about as good as possible an environment for HIV to develop a mutation that can provide a new method of attack.

    Reservoir of HIV-infected cells - check.
    Depleted immune system that is subject to other viral infections that could cross contaminate with HIV - check.
    Small group of immune resistant T-Cells that might be incapable of wiping out well-settled-in, drug resistant HIV - check

    These guys theoretically could wind up spurring the evolution of a new strain of HIV that attacks the few people that are currently resistant. The bright side to this is that the T-Cells should die off naturally with no replacement. So if it doesn't work and they don't try to prolong the experiment with extended and repeated treatments, the window of risk is relatively short.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @03:22AM (#26722063)

    +1, Interesting? Really?

    You kids today. You make karma whoring too easy.


  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:15AM (#26722305) Journal

    You could be worse off, as the study may require that you go off the regular HIV cocktail you are taking to suppress it.

  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @04:44AM (#26722437)

    Otherwise, accept that, there's going to be people who will make the argument that we should not blow too much medical money on sufferers of illnesses resulting from lifelong self indulgence or excessive risk taking.

    And people who know what they are talking about will point out that the availability of antivirals drastically reduces the rate at which the disease spreads in the population, encourages people to get tested ( which again reduces the rate at which it spreads ), and that the costs to society associated with having a diseased population rather than a reasonably healthy workforce makes it patently retarded to not fund the treatment even if you're a completely selfish individual. Seriously, have a look at South Africa and then compare it to Uganda and you will see the difference between what happens when health policy is run in accordance to expert recommendations and when self righteous moralizers set policy based on their judgmental attitudes. Now before you start, yes I know Uganda also introduced a lot of changes in social policies and awareness campaigns, but there is no reason you can't do both and without doubt their situation would be much worse had they gone with the prejudiced bullshit that caused the tragedy that has hit South Africa.

    Seriously, you can blame the victims of the disease all you like, at the end of the day the virus will spread if measures are not taken, and we are all better of by offering infected individuals treatment, no matter how stupid they were when they got infected.

  • by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @09:37AM (#26723871)


    So all I have to do is reply to this thread, and I get marked up as "interesting"? Wow! I never knew how simple it was!

  • Re:Mutation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @09:42AM (#26723911)
    I wouldn't put any money on that scenario.

    HIV resistant people are carriers of the virus yet it's not a terminal disease for them. As such, it's a win-win situation for both man and virus. If the virus mutates to a more agressive variant that circumvents the resistance and kills the patient then that strain of HIV is dead and gone(maybe stored in a fridge somewhere).

    Is it likely such a mutation would happen in all resistant carriers? No way. And considering that todays model of HIV is actually less agressive than the original i'd say that if anything the virus will mutate to a more tame variant. After all from an evolutionary standpoint the fittest virus does no direct noticeable harm to it's host.
  • by Nathrael ( 1251426 ) <> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @11:23AM (#26725161)
    It does not. All he says is that people who infect *themselves* through their own *choices* should not be given state funding which could be spent in a much better way. If you want a truly free society, you have to be free to succeed, but also free to fail. If someone else forces you to fail, that's a completely different issue.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.