Monday, November 28, 2011

A Promising Cure for HIV.

Medical researchers may now be back in pursuit of what was thought to be an unachievable goal: curing HIV. One man from San Francisco may have done what was thought to be impossible, cleared his body of any detectable signs of HIV. The treatment is several bone marrow transplants. Hope for the cure was raised in part by the experience of the patient, an American named Timothy Brown who had both HIV and leukemia.

In 2007 and 2008, while living in Berlin, Mr. Brown received two bone-marrow transplants to treat his leukemia. The donor was among the 1% of Northern Europeans naturally resistant to HIV infection because they lack CCR5, a protein on the surface of immune cells that the virus uses as an entry portal. With his own immune system replaced by one resistant to infection, Mr. Brown, 45, has apparently been free of the virus for about four years. There is a downside to this new discovery, however. Bone marrow transplants are grueling, risky and expensive. Moreover, it is hard enough to find an immunologically matching donor, let alone one with mutations in both copies of the CCR5 gene. There is still hope for gene therapy in HIV patients. The therapy inducesthe cells to produce proteins called zinc-finger nucleases that can disrupt the CCR5 gene.

While currently there is no definite path to a safe, marketable cure, hope lies on the horizon for those suffering with HIV and AIDS.

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