First person cured of AIDS via stem cells
Nick Sullivan stashed this in Science!
*reserves comment about Dubya Bush setting the world back 8 years by yanking Federal Funding for stem cells*
Awesome news. Next up - growing new livers, and I will be all set.
wow... that is a horrible headline. But first off, this is AWESOME.. it is real and genuine hope.
However, this is the reality: He is not cured of HIV. It is still in his system and always will be. There are about a dozen other non-marrow based cell types which express the CCR5 gene and can and do hold and produce HIV virons. He can still infect others. Only about 90% of current HIV-1 subtypes attach to CCR5, the rest do not require it, and neither does HIV-2. Also, as HIV mutates in the body, the longer it has a chance to mutate, the CCR5 requirement tends to progressively recede.
What has been accomplished here is that he will not likely develop AIDS, since the primary cells infected by the HIV virus are the CD4 type T Cells, which are the primary memory flag cells (i.e. they keep the 'memory' of past infections) that tell the CD8 type killer T Cells to go work, and particularly since there are far fewer cells in the body overall from which evasive mutations can emerge... but such a mutation can still happen.
Essentially, HIV is still rampaging in his body, he's just been given a new piece of armor to cover a sensitive spot, and while it will proceed much more slowly... the battle still rages. There is even a great deal of debate in the medical community as to whether he should even have discontinued his meds.
I won't even get into the dangers of going through a bone marrow transplant, let alone doing so while having HIV. His leukemia was already at the terminal stage or they would never have tried this, and it was a fluke that they managed to find a perfect 6 factor bone marrow match AND have also the CCR5 mutation.
Still, this feels like progress, and an advancement in medicine as well.
Here's the question, if you could use non-fetal stem cells to do the same thing as fetal stem cells, wouldn't that be a better, more ethical, and more humane way to do it? They can make the exact same and just as effective stem cells from everything from wisdom teeth to used afterbirth to clones. I think there's plenty of confusion. Bush's veto was only for new harvesting of embryonic stem cells and not other types and not already harvested existing ones.
The answer is of course we'd prefer non-fetal stem cells, and yes there's plenty of confusion, in part because Bush was a poor communicator, and in part because the majority of Bush supporters are skeptical of scientific concepts.
There will be many more scientific-ethics debates in the next few decades as science seeks longevity, nanotechnology becomes more prevalent, etc.
And yeah, that main issue was over federal funding. The private sector has many financial incentives to push harder in its research and development, looking for solutions for everything from cancer and diabetes, to (as Nick pointed out) growing me a new liver.