In the fight against HIV and AIDS there are two current philosophies on how to fight this often fatal disease. One is to help cure patients who already have the immune disease and the other is to prevent HIV and AIDS from ever spreading.
We’ve already heard about how to prevent the spread of HIV by abstaining from sexual intercourse, wearing condoms, and not sharing drug needles according to AIDS.org. However, medical science is furthering a vaccine and treatment options for the deadly disease. Here are two recent developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Vaccine research is being broken down into two avenues according to The AIDS Beacon. DNA vaccines and dendritic cell vaccines are currently undergoing clinical trials for effectives in preventing and HIV infection.
DNA vaccines are relatively new and involve DNA encoded with genes that respond to viral infections that is injected into HIV patients. Participants in a study in London are currently undergoing a 52-week trial and another trial is set to be started by GeoVax and go for 77 weeks. A small number of participants are involved in the trials since the test needs to be done on patients already infected and being treated for HIV infection.
Another set of vaccines involve dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are immune cells found in everyone’s blood. These cells are extracted, exposed to the HIV virus in a lab, and then re-injected into the patient in the hope that a natural immune response will occur throughout the patient’s body. The University of Pittsburgh, Baylor University, and the French government are currently seeking participants in the vaccine trials.
National HIV Testing Day is held annually on June 27th according to Food Consumer. In 2006, an estimated 21 percent of people who are infected with HIV don’t even know they have it in the United States which comes out to about 220,000 people. Testing to see if you have the virus is the first step in getting treatment for HIV/AIDS.
In a recent article posted to CBS News, new research conducted by the City of Hope in Los Angeles and published in Science magazine shows promising new treatments involving gene therapy and stem cell research. Current treatment for HIV includes trying to reduce the actual numbers of the virus in your system with a large amount of anti-retrovirus drugs that can often become less effective over time. This new treatment is touted as a one-time and long term possibility.
The new study conducted on just four patients shows that researchers were able to inject cells into lymphoma patients with HIV that were modified to combat the virus. They took bone marrow stem cells and made them more resistant to HIV by making genetic changes to the cells. Scientists used only a small amount of cells so they wouldn’t have too many adverse effects, if any.
What the research showed was that even after two years the modified cells were still present in the patient’s bodies even after being exposed to the HIV virus in the person’s system. One of the obstacles to gene therapy before was that cells didn’t last long enough to have any effect. Now, this small number of cells proves to scientists that adding genetically altered cells into a person’s tissues may even stop the virus if there are much greater numbers of cells. The point of this small trial wasn’t to control the virus but to see if cells could survive long enough to make this form of treatment a viable option. In that respect, researchers have succeeded.
Further research is needed before more promising results can be found but for now the researchers are cautiously optimistic. Not only did these stem cells survive but they also found ways to become other immune system cells. “Stem cells until now have been very resistant to this approach” said Carl June, an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. June is currently working on similar studies.
This article is for informational purposes only. Consult with your physician if you feel you should be tested for HIV/AIDS or if you have the virus to seek treatment options.
CBS News, Science magazine, The City of Hope, and The AIDS Beacon all provided information for this article regarding studies and clinical trials.