What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes progressive failure of the immune system thus exposing the body to various infections and cancer.
Statistics – According to Australian statistics in 2009, there were 29 395 cases.
Transmission – blood, semen, vaginal fluid, inheritance.
HAART – Highly active antiretroviral therapy – side effects – loss of appetite, tendency to develop infections and renal damage.
How does the anti-HIV gene work?
The miracle of this treatment is an anti-HIV gene obtained from a genetically engineered mouse virus, OZ1.
The patients are firstly administered with a growth factor that stimulates growth of white blood cells.
The blood is extracted to obtain blood stem cells which will be infected with the OZ1 gene. OZ1 encodes an RNA molecule called a ribozyme, which specifically targets and inactivates HIV genes.
Once the blood stem cells are transfused back into the blood circulatory system, the infected cells affect the bone marrow and populate it with HIV-resistant T cells. Thus, more of the body’s T cells should be HIV resistant.
Research – UCLA researcher Ronald T. Mitsuyasu, MD, and his colleagues, the OZ1 gene therapy used in the 100-week study resulted in no harmful side effects.
HIV did not develop resistance to the anti-HIV ribozyme gene.
Anti-HIV gene was effective such that CD4 T cells, which are white blood cells prone to HIV, saw an increase in cell count
(The significant mechanism by which HIV patients develop immunodeficiency is through the loss of CD4 T cells.  Therefore, this gene therapy has high hopes for restoring the immune system of HIV/AIDS patients).
HIV gene therapy research has a promising future to suppress HIV from attacking CD4 T cells and subsequently lowering the body’s immune system.