Gene Therapy Might Cure Aids

A patient with leukemia and aids had his bone marrow cells replaced with those from a donor who has a naturally occurring genetic mutation that renders his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Doctors have not been able to detect the virus in his blood for more than 600 days, despite his having ceased all conventional AIDS medication. Normally when a patient stops taking AIDS drugs, the virus stampedes through the body within weeks, or days. Last year, AIDS killed two million people; 2.7 million more contracted the virus.

While cautioning that the Berlin case could be a fluke, David Baltimore, who won a Nobel prize for his research on tumor viruses, deemed it “a very good sign” and a virtual “proof of principle” for gene-therapy approaches. Dr. Baltimore and his colleague, University of California at Los Angeles researcher Irvin Chen, have developed a gene therapy strategy against HIV that works in a similar way to the Berlin case. Drs. Baltimore and Chen have formed a private company to develop the therapy.

About 1% of Europeans, and even more in northern Europe, inherit the CCR5 mutation from both parents. People of African, Asian and South American descent almost never carry it.

There is a potentially safer alternative: Re-engineering a patient’s own cells through gene therapy. Gene therapy also faces daunting technical challenges. For example, the therapeutic genes are carried to cells by re-engineered viruses, and they must be made perfectly safe. Also, most gene therapy currently works by removing cells, genetically modifying them out of the body, then transfusing them back in — a complicated procedure that would prove too expensive for the developing world. Dr. Baltimore and others are working on therapeutic viruses they could inject into a patient as easily as a flu vaccine. But, he says, “we’re a long way from that.”

0 thoughts on “Gene Therapy Might Cure Aids”

  1. Agree with Michael that the CCP’s openly voracious appetite for annexing Taiwan will overshadow efforts to more closely integrate the economies of the two countries.

    This one election more likely reflects the issues Michael discussed in his linked article, than any wish of the Taiwanese to merge with the mainland.

  2. Michael

    Read your article and the analysis makes sense. The popular vote difference and absorption of the PFP then affirms that Ma will win the presidential election in March 22, 2008.

  3. Kurt9 has no idea what he is talking about. The outcome of the election had nothing to do with election rhetoric (the KMT is far more corrupt than the DPP) but with structural features of Taiwan’s voting patterns.

    The DPP took a beating because (1) the new winner take all districts negated DPP votes (2) gerrymandering of the districts to favor the KMT (3) inability to overcome its structural ceiling of votes in the legislative elections — 3.4, 3.4 and 3.6 million in the last three elections. Last time around it was helped by the fact that 600K KMT voters stayed home and the PFP poached votes from the KMT. This time the KMT swallowed PFP and reached its previous ceiling, 5 million votes. I have a very extensive analysis of this on my popular Taiwan blog. Fundamentally, the KMT’s superior ability to mobilize its voters for local elections, and the DPP’s lack of strong machine presence at the local level, coupled with the new voting system, means things are likely to stay this way.

    China and Taiwan should be as tightly linked as China and hong Kong. The relationship should be as frictionless as between EU countries.

    No reason it couldn’t be, except for China’s desire to annex Taiwan, an island it has never owned.


  4. There is a difference between the direction that the two parties would take Taiwan

    An estimated one million Taiwanese, or 4.3 percent of the island’s population, are either working or living in China, according to the Mainland Affairs Council, which handles cross-strait civilian affairs.

    For Chen’s government, the further expansion of economic ties with the mainland and the island’s massive investments there are not tolerable.

    “Taiwan has invested too much, rather than too little, in China,” Chen, who also serves as DPP chairman, said in his New Year’s Day address.

    But KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou has said he would allow Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan and reinstate direct transportation, commerce and postal services cut off when the two split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

    The reopening of the direct links, seen as a way to widen investment opportunities, would be “the most useful remedy” for the island’s ailing economy, says Christina Liu, a finance professor at National Taiwan University.

    “Without the direct links, multinational firms would not invest here because otherwise, they would be restricted in running their businesses in the Greater China area,” said Liu.

    Cargo and passenger services currently exist but they are made through third-party sites, mainly Hong Kong.

    China and Taiwan should be as tightly linked as China and hong Kong. The relationship should be as frictionless as between EU countries.

  5. Chen shui bian’s party lost the election because he is corrupt. The Kuomintang also has a history of corruption, but has cleaned itself up somewhat. It remains to be seen if the Kuomintang has learned the lesson about corruption.

    Taiwan and China are economically integrated these days. Everyone I know in Taiwan does their manufacturing in China, mainly in Shanghai area and Zhejiang province. There are about 700,000 people from Taiwan living in China, mostly in the Shanghai area.


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