Possible HIV Immunity Vaccine Discovered

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania believe they have found a way to pass on immunity to HIV/AIDS–a rare genetic anomaly possessed by an extremely lucky few–by altering your genes.

Essentially, HIV infects the body by “pulling itself into” T-cells, which fight off infection, rendering the body unable to protect itself from disease and other viruses, says Wired.com. To do this, HIV latches on to a protein on the cell called CCR5. By altering the genetic make-up of a person’s T-cells and reinserting them into the body, HIV has no way to destroy their immune system.

From the article:

In the latest version of this defense, Carl June and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used a highly engineered protein, called a zinc finger nuclease, to clip the CCR5 gene out of some T-cells. Left without the recipe for that protein, the cells are nearly impenetrable. His report appeared on the Nature Biotechnology website yesterday.

June tested the procedure on cultured T-cells and mice — not humans — so it should be a source of guarded optimism, because it’s not certain the technique would work in humans. In theory, AIDS doctors could take some T-cells out of an infected person, edit their genomes, and stick them back into their patient. Once they have returned to the body, each resistant cell will thrive and multiply in spite of the disease. This trick would not eliminate the virus, but it might be able to permanently raise the T-cell counts of AIDS patients, increasing their ability to resist secondary infections and remain healthy.

If this works, it would be one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern science. However, I’m concerned that–to paraphrase Chris Rock–they’re not actually curing anything, just making it possible to live with the virus. It is an improvement. But we’re not there yet, so keep that sh*t wrapped up!

(Image source: Wired.com)

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