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Jul 28, 2003

I was wondering if the field of genetic engineering could lead to a cure for HIV. Considering that certain animal species have white bloodcells, which are supposedly immune to the HIV virus, would the laboratory creation of a certain cell structure, immune to HIV yet receptable to humans, be a feasible cure if introduced into a HIV infected body?

Response from Dr. Pierone

Good question.

What if we could find some treatment to give to HIV-infected persons that did boosted their natural immunity so that even though they were still infected with HIV, they would not become ill? If this strategy of boosting natural immunity was even partially successful, might it allow control of HIV infection with fewer or less potent medications? What if we could synthesize a gene that turned off the ability of HIV to replicate? What if we then could somehow get human CD4 cells and macrophages to take up this gene and become impervious to HIV?

Variations on all of these themes are being studied in laboratories around the world. What they all have in common is the ultimate goal to control HIV by some treatment that is given for a set period of time, but has lasting effects. No one wants to take medications every day for an indefinite future and deal with potential side effects.

Are these potential treatments right around the corner? No, unfortunately not. Will some "magic bullet" product of genetic engineering eventually be developed and result in long lasting control of HIV? If I were a betting man my money would be on the scientist with the big brain (think Dexter), not the virus that happens to have the upper hand right now.

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