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TO OUR CARING DOCTOR AND FRIEND :-)
Sep 5, 2002

Hiya Doctor Bob,

It's me again. I just wanted to let you know about this too, so i had to cut and paste it. It's an excerpt from the BBC i believe. I am not sure about the validity or truth but i do hope that we can be optimistic about these advances in gene therapy. I would ask you this, would you as a doctor know how many years in time waiting we are from actually trying these procedures in humans? Are we close to actually routinely using them? Let us know. Please stay well! You are more a friend more like almost family more than you'll ever know! God Bless!

UR FRIEND! ;-)

A treatment for Aids which is more effective and less expensive than those currently available could have moved closer, according to scientists.

They have successfully inserted a beneficial gene into blood immune cells taken from patients infected with HIV.

This technique may keep HIV-infected patients free of disease symptoms

Dr Wenzhe Ho The gene blocked the Aids virus from replicating in the cells, pointing to a possible treatment which would lengthen sufferers' survival rates.

Though the action does not eliminate the Aids virus, it stops it activating.

Dr Wenzhe Ho, at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said: "These results suggest that, with further work, this technique may keep HIV-infected patients free of disease symptoms."

Knowledge

Using the knowledge that an HIV gene called tat is essential for the Aids virus to replicate in infected cells, Dr Ho and colleagues at the Research Institute for Genetic and Human Therapy in Washington DC designed an anti-tat gene to block it.

The anti-tat gene was inserted into a mouse retrovirus which can enter cells that are potential sites for HIV replication, and prevented activation.

More importantly, say the researchers, virus activation was also prevented in blood immune cells taken from HIV positive patients.

Additionally, the anti-tat gene prolonged the survival of immune system cells known as CD4+T lymphocytes which are targeted by the Aids virus.

If further studies prove the gene therapy could be used in HIV patients, it could provide an alternative to the standard Aids treatment - active antiretroviral therapy.

The current treatments are expensive and require a difficult regime of four to six pills, two to three times daily, and do not eradicate HIV. They also requires lifelong use.

Dr Stuart Starr, head of immunologic and infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said: "The anti-tat gene offers the possibility of prolonging the latency period indefinitely without the need for long-term antiretroviral treatment.

"Early indications are that the anti-tat gene does not affect uninfected cells or cause toxic side effects."

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See also:

01 Nov 99 | Aids HIV expert warns of bloating side effect

08 Nov 99 | Aids Experts fight back against HIV threat

18 Aug 99 | Health Clue to resisting HIV

14 Dec 99 | Health Scepticism over Aids 'cure'

Internet links:

Gene Therapy

Terence Higgins Trust

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Links to other Health stories are at the foot of the page.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Friend,

This anti-TAT gene insertion research is very exciting, but also quite preliminary. It certainly opens up new avenues for gene therapy research. How many years until it becomes available? I couldn't even hazard a guess. Gene therapy is very complex. Our immune systems are so delicately balanced that whenever we try to tinker with part of it, other aspect may go haywire. It's a little bit like trying to tune up the engine on a Porsche sports car when the only tools you have to work with are a sledgehammer and chain saw. Our tools to deal effectively with the immune system are getting better, but don't hold your breath for these therapies to be widely available anytime soon.

Stay tuned to The Body for further details on gene and immune-based therapies as they evolve.

Stay well.

Dr. Bob


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