Immune upgrade gives ‘HIV shielding’

4

Doctors have used gene therapy to upgrade the immune system of 12 patients with HIV to help shield them from the virus's onslaught.

It raises the prospect of patients no longer needing to take daily medication to control their infection.

The patients' white blood cells were taken out of the body, given HIV resistance and then injected back in.

The small study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggested the technique was safe.

Some people are born with a very rare mutation that protects them from HIV.

It changes the structure of their T-cells, a part of the immune system, so that the virus cannot get inside and multiply.

The first person to recover from HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, had his immune system wiped out during leukaemia treatment and then replaced with a bone marrow transplant from someone with the mutation.

Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are adapting patients' own immune systems to give them that same defence.

Millions of T-cells were taken from the blood and grown in the laboratory until the doctors had billions of cells to play with.

The team then edited the DNA inside the T-cells to give them the shielding mutation – known as CCR5-delta-32.

About 10 billion cells were then infused back in, although only around 20% were successfully modified.

When patients were taken off their medication for four weeks, the number of unprotected T-cells still in the body fell dramatically, whereas the modified T-cells seemed to be protected and could still be found in the blood several months later.

Replacement therapy?

The trial was designed to test only the safety and feasibility of the method, not whether it could replace drug treatment in the long term.

Written By: James Gallagher
continue to source article at bbc.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. Isn’t it wonderful that God has provided us with a way to protect ourselves from this terrible disease. A disease I am told God inflicted on us in the first place because of homosexuals. One can therefore only conclude that God has changed his mind about homosexuals. Happy days.

    • In reply to #1 by naskew:

      Isn’t it wonderful that God has provided us with a way to protect ourselves from this terrible disease. A disease I am told God inflicted on us in the first place because of homosexuals. One can therefore only conclude that God has changed his mind about homosexuals. Happy days.

      Not sure if trolling, but if not, take your impotent god out of here. He had nothing to do with the human intellect at work among these visionary researchers.

      • In reply to #3 by TheRossman:

        In reply to #1 by naskew:

        Isn’t it wonderful that God has provided us with a way to protect ourselves from this terrible disease. A disease I am told God inflicted on us in the first place because of homosexuals. One can therefore only conclude that God has changed his mind about homosexuals. Happy days.

        Not sure if trolling, but if not, take your impotent god out of here. He had nothing to do with the human intellect at work among these visionary researchers.

        TheRossman – I’m pretty sure naskew was being sarcastic. ;)

  2. I’ve been following the story of the Berlin patient for some years now and I am absolutely fascinated with it. He is the Timothy Ray Brown mentioned in the article above. Here is a film clip of him explaining some details of his story:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/berlin-patient-timothy-ray-brown-hiv-free/story?id=16846827

    For background info on the CCR5 receptor and the mutation of that, read the Wiki page on it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CCR5

    From that wiki page:

    CCR5-Δ32 is a deletion mutation of a gene that has a specific impact on the function of T cells.[11] At least one copy of CCR5-Δ32 is found in about 4–16% of people of European descent. It has been speculated that this allele was favored by natural selection during the Black Death for Northern Europeans, but further research has revealed that the gene did not protect against the Black Death.[12] The current hypothesis is of protection vs smallpox throughout Europe,[12] especially in the major trade cities and in isolated islands and archipelagos, such as Iceland and the Azores.[13]
    In the ancient world in areas such as Corinth in Ancient Greece, prostitution may have led to infection, since a virus similar to HIV existed which had flu-like symptoms and later continued to weaken the immune system of those infected. It was at the time not known how it was spread but the Plague of Athens and many later diseases in the Balkans may have also influenced the genetic mutations.[14] This coalescence date is contradicted by surported evidence of CCR5-Δ32 in Bronze Age samples, at levels comparable to the modern European population.[15] Smallpox may be another candidate for the high level of the mutation in the European population.[9]
    The allele has a negative effect upon T cell function, but appears to protect against smallpox and HIV. Yersinia pestis (the bubonic plague bacterium) was demonstrated in the laboratory not to associate with CCR5. Individuals with the Δ32 allele of CCR5 are healthy, suggesting that CCR5 is largely dispensable. However, CCR5 apparently plays a role in mediating resistance to West Nile virus infection in humans, as CCR5-Δ32 individuals have shown to be disproportionately at higher risk of West Nile virus in studies,[16] indicating that not all of the functions of CCR5 may be compensated by other receptors.

    Cool stuff !

Leave a Reply