News of Note: Gene therapy can protect against HIV
“The road to a vaccine against HIV has proved to be far longer than originally anticipated. More than 2 million adults are newly infected with HIV every year and, nearly three decades after the virus was first identified, researchers haven’t found a reliable way to prevent infection. The classic vaccine approach, which uses all or part of an inactivated virus to induce immunity, has yielded little success because HIV has managed to disguise most of the easily-recognised external structures that antibodies would target. Researchers have thus had a tough time finding a molecule that can induce even moderately broad responses against the virus in all its different mutations. So although it might sound extreme to use gene therapy as a preventative treatment for HIV/AIDS, the method could provide a much-needed alternative.”
“David Baltimore, a virologist and HIV researcher at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and his colleagues used a genetically altered adenovirus to infect muscle cells and deliver DNA that codes for antibodies isolated from the blood of people infected with HIV. The DNA is incorporated into the muscle cells’ genome and programs the cells to manufacture the antibody, which is then secreted into the bloodstream…
“Baltimore and his colleagues tested five different broadly neutralizing antibodies, one at a time, in mice with humanized immune systems. Two of the antibodies, called b12 and VRC01, proved completely protective — even when the mice received doses of HIV that were 100 times higher than a natural infection. After 52 weeks, the levels of antibody expression remained high, suggesting that a single dose would result in long-lasting protection. “We showed that you can express protective levels of antibodies in a mammal and have that expression last for a long period of time,” Baltimore says. “It sets the stage for human trials.”
I’m almost convinced that there will be a cure for HIV within my lifetime; considering the frequency of studies like this one, it sounds more than likely. In a world without HIV, not only will 33+ million people no longer have to suffer needlessly, the movement for sexual freedom will have conquered one of it’s greatest enemies. Disease and suffering being attributed to sex will become a thing of the past.