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Medicine Science

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

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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  • Oblig. XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:44AM (#44261829)

  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:54AM (#44261925) Homepage

    I hate this misuse of fundamentalists. Call them extremists. Those people are not basing their ideology on the fundamentals. There is no Biblical foundation for believing this way.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @11:59AM (#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 i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:03PM (#44262009) Homepage Journal

    But they claim that they do. And in in the case of religion, if you take out the spurious claims, you're basically left with no beliefs at all.

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

    by Amorymeltzer ( 1213818 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:12PM (#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!"

  • by Gavin Scott ( 15916 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:21PM (#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.


  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 12, 2013 @12:25PM (#44262221)

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

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Friday July 12, 2013 @01:19PM (#44262803)
    And actually, to most Christians, the source of disease would typically be seen as random mutations, which God allowed after the fall. Is it random chance that it affects gays and drug abusers the most? Quite the coincidence, but hard to say. But ultimately, the ability to turn bad around for good is what God specializes in.
  • Re:"stripped-down" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday July 12, 2013 @02:21PM (#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.

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.