|Exciting new treatment AID under trial for HIV|
Prominent Australian stem cell scientist and current Director of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Professor Alan Trounson has announced that a potential cure for HIV is about to enter human clinical trials. The treatment takes advantage of the fact that a small proportion of humans are immune to HIV as they have a specific gene mutation which disables the CCR5 receptor that the HIV virus needs to invade cells of the immune system. The research about to be trialled utilises blood stem cells carrying this mutation to armour the body against HIV, which will be delivered to patients in the form of a bone marrow transplant. This approach follows in the wake of the ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Brown, the only known person worldwide to have been cured of HIV following a life-saving bone marrow transplant from a donor carrying the HIV-resistant mutation to treat leukaemia. Introducing immune cells which have a disabled HIV receptor effectively stops the virus reproducing, but does not cause any harmful effects to the patient. Prof. Trounson however stated that even if the trials are successful it may take another six to seven years before the treatment is widely available, but if the treatment works properly could cure patients of the infection and eliminate the need for lifelong antiviral drugs. He also stated that this approach will require careful scrutiny as bone marrow transplants can pose significant risks and side effects, given that antiviral drug medication currently allows HIV patients 30 to 40 years of relatively good health. It may also need further modification to allow affordable access to patients where the disease is most prevalent, in sub-Saharan Africa.
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