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Gene Therapy Against HIV Not a Proven Cure, Experts Say
Date:3/1/2011

now be asked if we can increase the levels of HIV-resistant cells in patients (in this trial about 6 percent of CD4 cells on average) to approach 100 percent."

Only those trials will get scientists closer to knowing whether the therapy might cure some people of HIV infection and AIDS.

"Certainly with gene therapy, a cure is absolutely where they'd like to head, but this particular experiment is a long way from that," noted Rowena Johnston, director of research at the Foundation for AIDS Research in New York City. There are a lot of "very major questions that need to be addressed to see if this can be applied in more than specific settings."

According to Johnston, some of those challenges include making the therapy more efficient so that more T-cells are converted, as well as finding a reliable way to insert the gene into the person.

And any treatment coming out of this research will likely not be cheap. According to the Associated Press, company spokespeople say the gene therapy might cost $93,000. Other AIDS drugs are also expensive, in the range of $25,000 a year.

According to June, the treatment might someday have applications "beyond the field of HIV therapy."

"This is the first successful example of targeted genetic modification of the DNA code in patients, and therefore this has implications for the development of corrective gene therapy disorders for a number of monogenic gene disorders of the bone marrow, such as sickle cell anemia, that are currently incurable," he said.

More information

For more on HIV/AIDS, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Rowena Johnston, Ph.D., director of research, Foundation for AIDS Research, New York City; Michael Horberg, M.D., director, HIV/AIDS, Kaiser Permanente Health Plan and vice chair, HIV Medicine Association, Oakland, Calif.; Carl June, M.D., dir
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