"We need to understand why it happened and see if we can reproduce that in the general population," Tebas said.
It's still early in the development of the treatment: the current research is in phase 2 of the customary three phases of research that new medical treatments go through.
If gene therapy does become a treatment for HIV patients, it may be best for those who aren't doing well on existing antiretroviral drugs, said John Rossi, chairman of the molecular and cellular biology department at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope Medical Center near Los Angeles.
"There are thousands of people who are completely resistant to all the drugs that are out there, and this is one more option they could have," Rossi said.
But the cost of the treatment would probably be high, he added, perhaps reaching around $20,000. And it's not clear how long the treatment would last, he said, since the immune cells aren't permanent.
There's more on gene therapy for another condition, cancer, at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Pablo Tebas, M.D., associate professor, medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; John Rossi, Ph.D., chairman, department of molecular and cellular biology, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, Calif.; presentation, Feb. 18, 2010, Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, San Francisco
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