The latest research into HIV/AIDS is coming up with some exciting new treatments which can dramatically improve and prolong the life of someone infected with the virus.
Unfortunately the elusive cure is still a long way off though it’s not for want of trying. Numerous studies are underway looking at gene therapy and an HIV vaccine, all of which offers hope for the future.
One of the most interesting developments comes from the National Institute of Medical Research where scientists have discovered that a gene found in rhesus monkeys can prevent HIV. The same gene in humans can’t block the virus but it appears that only one change is needed to enable it to do so. If this proves to be the case it would be a remarkable breakthrough in the search for a cure.
It’s a brave new world but it’s complicated stuff and a cure certainly isn’t just around the corner. In a nutshell, this pioneering gene therapy would involve removing all the white blood cells from a patient, cloning them and altering the genetics before introducing them back into the body. Existing technology can’t actually do this so it’s something for the longer term. But it’s still a viable possibility and thanks to antiretroviral drugs keeping people alive longer, this treatment may be available in future to people currently living with the virus.
Other gene therapy studies involve inserting modified genes directly into cells to prevent the virus from reproducing itself. These cells produce the CD4 cells which can resist the HIV infection.
The hunt for an HIV vaccine has come a long way. Dozens of experimental vaccines have been tested so far. They are either preventative (designed to stop someone from getting the virus in the first place) or therapeutic with the aim of aiding an infected person to recover from the virus.
Once again these possible solutions to the HIV crisis are a very long way off despite nearly 15 years of research. People respond in different ways to the infection, HIV is still not fully understood and it’s a very changeable virus so different preventative vaccines may be needed.
Studies are underway into microbibe which is a form of lubricant capable of reducing the transmission of HIV when applied in the vagina or anus. Around 60 different products are being tested and 12 of these have been found to be safe and effective in animals. Microbibe is now being tested on humans and if successful could be available as early as 2007.
But the majority of current research is focusing on the development of antiretrovirals and improving their effectiveness.
New AIDS Drugs
These new drugs include:
- cellular metabolism modulators which interfere with the cellular process needed for HIV to reproduce
- entry inhibitors which can interfere in HIV enter cells
- integrase inhibitors which prevent the HIV from inserting its genes into a cell’s DNA.
Thanks to these new antiretrovirals keeping people alive for longer there’s hope that a person infected with HIV today may benefit from a cure in their lifetime.