Whoever finds a cure for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) deserves the Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology. The reason is clear. HIV is one of the most intelligent viruses known. It has evaded cure for more than three decades simply because it is incredibly smart, so it’s going to take someone that is very
Whoever finds a cure for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) deserves the Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology. The reason is clear. HIV is one of the most intelligent viruses known. It has evaded cure for more than three decades simply because it is incredibly smart, so it’s going to take someone that is very clever indeed, to outsmart it.
•A researcher at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where edited DNA was used to fix genetic illness into patients using modified HIV
Although genetically simple, HIV demonstrates remarkably complex behaviour. It is a master of invasion and evasion. Despite its comparatively small “genetic brain,” the virus is able to evade sophisticated detection mechanisms of the immune system.
It also counters attacks of the vastly more complex human cells, reach into the cell’s nucleus and replace the human genome with its own viral DNA. By attacking the immune system directly, HIV weakens the entire body. After taking over invaded cells, the smart HIV transfers itself between multiple cells.
Enormous research has been done on HIV, yet much more is yet to be known about the incredibly adaptive virus that continues to face human onslaught.
Certainly, scientists have not given up in the quest to overcome the smart virus and while a cure may have not been found, cure research remains promising as scientists continue work on a functional cure and a sterilising cure.
While the search continues, significant discoveries about the human immune system made on the road to finding a cure remain paramount. The efforts to improve treatment, prevention and awareness tools are continuing to have a positive impact on the lives of many.
One of the most profound outcomes of application of HIV research occurred lately when doctors at St Jude’s Children Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, reported how they “used” HIV to “cure” children with a rare immune system abnormality.
The children were all born with a condition known as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)—commonly known as Bubble Boy Disease—that makes it impossible for their bodies to make white blood cells and they were at risk of dying as infants.
Ten of the affected children were treated with an experimental gene therapy which made eight of them to produce vital white blood cells for the first time. The scientists “edited” DNA to fix the fault which causes the genetic illness and delivered the “cured” genes into the children’s body using HIV. The altered genes used to fix the children’s defective DNA were delivered into the body using damaged HIV viruses.
Experts working on the project say the breakthrough is a first for children with this rare and life-threatening illness, and say only time will tell if it’s a permanent cure.
Each of the patients, according to the MailOnline, has X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID-X1), a condition present from birth which stops a child’s immune system working.
The illness is known as ‘bubble boy disease’ because patients have to be kept in isolation tanks to avoid common infections like colds, which could kill them.
While the therapy is said to have cured the patients, Dr Ewelina Mamcarz, one of the scientists, notes that only time will tell if the cure is permanent.
“These patients are toddlers now who are responding to vaccinations and have immune systems to make all immune cells they need for protection from infections as they explore the world and live normal lives. This is a first for patients with SCID-X1.”
Without treatment, children with bubble boy disease usually die when they’re one or two because their body can’t fight off even the simplest of infections.