‘Gene therapy could cure HIV & AIDS’
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.