Wednesday, March 5, 2014

(HIV) Cure is a 4 letter word (miracle is 7)

We can go back to having as much sex as we want  (unfortunately STDs are again on the rise). However the promise of GM cure is now endless and that must be a good thing (we like living like Mr Micawber). The best goodies (like age reversal therapy) will be reserved for the 1%, the "annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six" folks will perhaps need to wait for Indian origin generic therapy to take shape (and if WTO approves).

Scientists have been excited about the prospect of genetically modifying patients' immune cells to make them resistant to disease since doctors effectively cured an HIV patient in 2008. Timothy Brown, also known as the Berlin patient, had a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukaemia. Spotting their chance to treat both conditions, his doctors found a donor who carried the rare mutation that made their immune cells resistant to HIV. Immune cells are made in the bone marrow. Since the operation, Brown has had no detectable level of HIV in his body and no longer takes anti-HIV drugs.

Bone marrow transplants are risky operations and cannot be given to everyone with HIV. But modifying patients' immune cells might be the next best thing. One shortcoming of the latest therapy is that the patients still make normal immune cells, which can and will be infected by the HIV virus. Levine said one hope for the future was to genetically modify stem cells in the patient's bone marrow that grow into immune cells. Those patients might then produce a steady flow of resistant immune cells, leaving HIV nowhere to hide.

The latest treatment was not without its problems. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors report a total of 130 mild or moderate side effects, 32 of which were linked to the modified cells rather than the infusion procedure. The most common reactions were fever, chills, headaches, muscle and joint pain. One patient was taken to the hospital's emergency department after falling ill. The scientists note too that the patients' body odour took on the smell of garlic, a consequence of them breaking down dimethyl sulfoxide, used to preserve the genetically modified cells.