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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Newer Safe and Beneficial Option for HIV Patients: Gene Therapy

In the biggest clinical trial to date, a group of scientists have found gene therapy to be a safe and beneficial option for HIV patients. Ronald Mitsuyasu, of the University of California, Los Angeles, headed the trial for testing gene therapy against HIV.
"To our knowledge, our study was the first randomised, controlled study performed with gene therapy in HIV," New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying. 
For the trial, patients temporarily stopped their usual regime of anti-retroviral treatment (ART), in order to see whether gene therapy would prove effective or not. Half the 74 patients received the treatment, and half a placebo. Despite the fact that gene therapy didn't work as well as ART, virus concentrations in blood were on average about a third lower in recipients of the treatment as compared to controls who received a placebo. 
Besides, recipients had higher numbers of CD4+ white blood cells, the type that is attacked by the virus. "It provides proof of concept and early indications are that, with more refinement, this approach may be a viable one for controlling HIV directly in people without the need for continuous HIV medication," said Mitsuyasu. 
He added: "From a scientific standpoint, it represents a new and potentially important and long-lasting way of controlling diseases." The researchers took blood samples from patients and isolated CD34+ stem cells, which can mature into many types of white blood cell, including the CD4+ cells attacked by HIV.

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