‘Gene ther­apy could cure HIV & AIDS’

Mail Today - - WORLDLY WISE -

EX­PERTS say gene ther­apy could fi­nally be used to treat HIV and AIDS — af­ter a decade of try­ing to repli­cate the trans­plant that cured a pa­tient in Ger­many.

Although there is no de­fin­i­tive cure for the dis­ease, there have been many ad­vances in treat­ment that have made it pos­si­ble for pa­tients to live longer lives. Last year, the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion de­clared that peo­ple who re­li­giously take their HIV med­i­ca­tion for six months can reach a point where their virus is not trans­mit­table.

How­ever, ex­perts say gene edit­ing — which has been re­cently ap­proved by the FDA to treat can­cer and a rare form of child­hood blind­ness — has been de­vel­oped to such an ex­tent that it could be viewed as the best an­swer for a cure.

Matt Chap­pell, of San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia, has been tak­ing the strong­est AIDS drugs for more than a decade, but they weren’t able to full con­trol his HIV in­fec­tion. He then par­tic­i­pated in a gene ther­apy ex­per­i­ment in 2014 where sci­en­tists re­moved some of his blood cells, dis­abled a gene to help them re­sist HIV, and re­turned these “edited” cells to him.

So far, it has given Chap­pell the next best thing to a cure.

“I’ve been off med­i­ca­tions for three and a half years,” he said. He even was able to keep the virus in check de­spite can­cer treat­ments last year that taxed his im­mune sys­tem.

Chap­pell was lucky, though. Only a few of the 100 oth­ers in those ex­per­i­ments were able to stay off HIV drugs for a cou­ple years; the rest still need medicines to keep HIV sup­pressed.

Matt Chap­pell dur­ing a gene ther­apy ex­per­i­ment.

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