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Cell Replacement
Jan 12, 2001

Dear Doctor,

I have a question relating to the cells attacked by HIV. Has anyone considered genetic engineering to replace cells lost to the virus? Could cells be made in a test tube and transplanted back into a patient? It seems to me, if you can not beat the virus, you could indefinitely sustain a person's life by giving the body the cells it needs. I am not a doctor, and I do not know if this has ever been considered. It is just an idea.

Response from Dr. Holodniy

Your idea is a great one. We and others are involved in "gene therapy" studies which are doing just what you describe. Certain strategies are used to make stem cells, taken from a patient, resistant to HIV infection. These cells are then put back into the patient, and then mature to become T cells. These cells will then not become infected and the HIV-infected cells will eventually die off. That is the theory. Whether this works or not, time will tell.

MH



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