Aids cure in sight: Science breakthrough

Scientists in Australia have made important discoveries that may bring an end to Aids within a decade.

Image from an electron microscope of HIV virus on a lymphocyte or white blood cell (Source: Wikipedia)



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MEDICINE

Australian study turns HIV against itself

(AFP)

SYDNEY — An Australian scientist said Wednesday he had discovered a way to turn the HIV virus against itself in human cells in the laboratory, in an important advance in the quest for an AIDS cure.

David Harrich from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research said he modified a protein in HIV that normally helps the virus spread, into a "potent" inhibitor.

The protein was introduced to immune cells targeted by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), where it slowed the reproduction of the virus after infection.

The experiments were conducted in a lab dish, and thorough testing on lab animals is needed before any human trials can begin.

"I have never seen anything like it. The modified protein works every time," said Harrich.

Harrich's team, whose study is published in the journal Human Gene Therapy, said the modified protein dubbed Nullbasic inhibited virus replication about eight- to ten-fold in some cells.

"If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are many hurdles to clear, we're looking at a cure for AIDS," the researcher said

Commenting on the study, Frank Wegmann, an Oxford University HIV vaccine researcher, told AFP a Nullbasic-based drug was "quite far from application."

Creating a drug would be challenging, he said, as it would require introducing "designed" information into the genes of people to be treated.

The immune cells of the blood are the primary cells which are infected by HIV and if you want to have a cure with this new protein, you need to... get every immune cell to make this protein," he explained.

This would require gene therapy -- a complicated, rare, potentially dangerous and very expensive option.

They (the Australian researchers) have partly addressed that question. They have partly tested that (gene therapy), but not really in patients or in infected people, only in the lab.

Harrich said Nullbasic held promise for curbing the spread of the virus as well as for treating people who already have AIDS, and described it as "fighting fire with fire."

"The virus might infect a cell but it wouldn't spread," he said.

You would still be infected with HIV, it's not a cure for the virus, but the virus would stay latent, it wouldn't wake up, so it wouldn't develop into AIDS. 

With a treatment like this, you would maintain a healthy immune system.

An HIV-infected person is said to have AIDS when their count of CD4 immune system cells drops below 200 per microlitre of blood or they develop any one of 22 opportunistic infections like cancer or tuberculosis as a result.

Most people infected with HIV, if left untreated, would develop AIDS about 10 to 15 years later, according to the UN. Antiretroviral treatments can prolong this window period.

The new Nullbasic therapy, if proven, could see the spread of HIV halted indefinitely, bringing an end to the deadly condition, said Harrich.

Using a treatment based on a single protein could spell an end to onerous multiple drug regimes for HIV patients, meaning a better quality of life and lower costs.

Animal trials are due to start this year.

Even if all goes according to plan, said Wegmann, a Nullbasic-based treatment was probably about 10 years off.

"There are many other potential strategies towards a cure, but so far nothing works and it's not clear whether anything will ever work," he said..

One really has to wait for results of animal studies and clinical trials to really judge this.

UN figures show the number of people infected with HIV worldwide rose to 34 million in 2011 from 33.5 million in 2010.

The vast majority (23.5 million) live in sub-Saharan Africa, with another 4.2 million in South and Southeast Asia.

There were 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths worldwide in 2011 -- 24 percent fewer than in 2005 and nearly six percent below the 2010 level.

New HIV infections have at least halved in 25 low and middle income countries over the past decade.

The UN said in November that achieving zero new infections in children appeared increasingly possible.

Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved.

(Source: Bangkok Post, MEDICINE, Australian study turns HIV against itself, (AFP), link)   


Aids Cure Research Vocabulary

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) - HIV/AIDS, "a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). During the initial infection a person may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. This is typically followed by a prolonged period without symptoms. As the illness progresses it interferes more and more with the immune system, making the person much more likely to get infections, including opportunistic infections, and tumors that do not usually affect people who have working immune systems. HIV is transmitted primarily via unprotected sexual intercourse, (including anal and even oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do not transmit HIV. Prevention of HIV infection, primarily through safe sex and needle-exchange programs, is a key strategy to control the spread of the disease. There is no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy. While antiretroviral treatment reduces the risk of death and complications from the disease, these medications are expensive and may be associated with side effects." (See Wikipedia and in Thai language)

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) - the name of the virus that causes AIDS (See Wikipedia)

virus - "a very small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of an organism" (See Wikipedia)
virology -
the study of viruses (See Wikipedia)

infection -
when a disease has entered the body and has a negative effect on the body (See Wikipedia)

achieving zero new infections

achieving zero new infections in children appeared increasingly possible

the protein slowed the reproduction of the virus after infection

infected
- having a disease transmitted from someone else ซึ่งติดเชื้อ
infected by HIV

infect - when a disease enters a body and hurts it
the virus might infect a cell but it wouldn't spread

gene - the basic unit of heredity and inheritance in living things, that transfers traits or characteristics from parent to child such as eye color, blood type, risk for specific diseases, and the thousands of basic biochemical processes that comprise life .(See Wikipedia)
creating a drug would require introducing "designed" information into the genes of people to be treated.

therapy
- a treatment which helps someone feel better, grow stronger, etc., especially after an illness การบำบัดโรค

gene therapy -
"the use of DNA as a pharmaceutical agent to treat disease. It derives its name from the idea that DNA can be used to supplement or alter genes within an individual's cells as a therapy to treat disease. The most common form of gene therapy involves using DNA that encodes a functional, therapeutic gene to replace a mutated gene" (See Wikipedia)

Nullbasic- (See researcher's blog and PLoS Open Source research article)
nullbasic therapy

treatment - medical treatment, the process of providing medical care การรักษา
antiretroviral treatment - the name of the kind of drug used in the management of HIV/Aids (See Wikipedia)

cure - some medical that ends a disease, makes sick people healthy again รักษาให้หาย, แก้ให้หาย การรักษาให้หาย
an AIDS cure

clinical trial - the tests done on new drugs and therapies for curing diseases to see if they work are and are effective: "sets of tests in medical research and drug development that generate safety and efficacy data (or more specifically, information about adverse drug reactions and adverse effects of other treatments) for health interventions (e.g., drugs, diagnostics, devices, therapy protocols)" (See Wikipedia)

human trials
- a clinical trial with humans that have a disease
animal trials
- a clinical trial with animals that have a disease
animal trials are due to start this year

experiment - a scientific test to see what happens to something under certain conditions, scientific experiment (See Wikipedia)
conduct experiments - do experiments
the experiments were conducted in a lab dish

immune
- safe and protected from disease and infection
immune system - the biological system in the human body that protects the body from disease (See Wikipedia)
healthy immune system
immune cells - cells of the immune system involved in defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials, also called "white blood cells"  or "leukocytes" (includes B cells and T cells which are called "lymphocytes") (See Wikipedia)
immune cells of the blood

maintain
- to keep รักษา
maintain a healthy immune system

with a treatment like this, you would maintain a healthy immune system

count of CD4 immune system cells - "white blood cells or leukocytes that are an essential part of the human immune system. They are often referred to as CD4 cells, T-helper cells or T4 cells. They are called helper cells because one of their main roles is to send signals to other types of immune cells, included CD8 killer cells. CD4 cells send the signal and CD8 cells destroy and kill the infection or virus. If CD4 cells become depleted, for example in untreated HIV infection, or following immune suppression prior to a transplant, the body is left vulnerable to a wide range of infections that it would otherwise have been able to fight" (See Wikipedia)

opportunistic -
taking selfish advantage of a bad situation for your own benefit (See Wikipedia)
opportunistic infections - infections that people with a healthy immune system do not get (See Wikipedia)

An HIV-infected person is said to have AIDS when their count of CD4 immune system cells drops below 200 per microlitre of blood or they develop any one of 22 opportunistic infections like cancer or tuberculosis as a result.

vaccine - "a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters" วัคซีน (See Wikipedia)

protein - a subtance in food such as meat, eggs and milk that people need to grow and be healthy: "large biological molecules consisting of one or more chains of amino acids. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within living organisms, including catalyzing metabolic reactions, replicating DNA, responding to stimuli, and transporting molecules from one location to another" โปรตีน (See Wikipedia)

inihibit - stop or reduce growth or activity of something  ยับยั้ง
replication -
when something produces more of itself; reproduction

inihibited replication - stopped something from making more of itself
inihibited virus replication - stopped a virus from making more of itself

turns it against itself
Australian study turns HIV against itself

discover - find something new (that other people do not know about yet)
discovered a way to turn the HIV virus against itself in human cells in the laboratory

advance -
moving to the next higher and better level
quest - search
an important advance in the quest for an AIDS cure

modified -
changed
modified a protein - changed a protein

spread - to (cause to) cover, reach or have an effect on a wider or increasing area or number of people แพร่หลาย, แพร่กระจาย กระจายไปทั่ว
a protein in HIV that normally helps the virus spread

potent - strong ทีี่มีศักยภาพ
inhibitor - something that stops or reduces something
potent inhibitor

modified a protein in HIV that normally helps the virus spread, into a "potent" inhibitor

targeted - aimed at a particular person or thing ตกเป็นเป้า ตั้งเป้า เล็ง มุ่ง
the protein was introduced to immune cells targeted by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

reproduction - when living things make more living things; making a copy of something
reproduction of the virus  

thorough -
complete, covering and dealing with all aspects and possible problems
thorough testing - complete testing, covering all conditions
thorough testing on lab animals
thorough testing on lab animals is needed before any human trials can begin

I have never seen anything like it  

modified - changed
modified protein - a changed protein
the modified protein works every time

dubbed - given a name ตั้งฉายา, ตั้งชื่อเล่นให้
eight- to ten-fold - 8 to 10 times more (8X, 10X)
the modified protein dubbed Nullbasic inhibited virus replication about eight- to ten-fold in some cells

hurdles - things to jump over; difficult problems to solve
hurdles to clear  
many hurdles to clear
bear in mind... - remember ...
bear in mind there are many hurdles to clear

we're looking at ... -
something that might happen in the future ...
we're looking at a cure for AIDS

vaccine researcher
an Oxford University HIV vaccine researcher

apply (verb) - use some technology, idea or theory in some real practical situation
application (noun) - the act of using some technology in some real situation

far from application -
actually using it will take a lot more time and research
quite - very
quite far from application

based -
designed and built using something
X-based Y - Y is designed and built using X

Nullbasic-based drug
a Nullbasic-based drug was quite far from application

challenging - difficult, in a way that tests your ability or determination ที่ท้าทายความสามารถ
creating a drug would be challenging

primary - first and most important
the primary cells
the primary cells infected by HIV

the immune cells of the blood are the primary cells which are infected by HIV and if you want to have a cure with this new protein, you need to... get every immune cell to make this protein

potentially
- possibly เป็นไปได้
potentially dangerous

option - a choice; something that you can choose in a particular situation ทางเลือก ตัวเลือก
very expensive option

complicated - having many parts and aspects that are difficult to understand and deal with ที่ซับซ้อน
rare
- uncommon, unusual; not happening very often หาได้ยาก ซึ่งหายาก

gene therapy is a complicated, rare, potentially dangerous and very expensive option

partly - only part, not complete, less than 100%
address a problem - try to solve a problem
address a question -
try to answer a question
partly addressed - try to answer part of a problem (not 100%)

the researchers have partly addressed that question

partly tested - not 100% tested
patients - sick people with a disease or medical conditions, receiving medical treatment from a doctor

they have partly tested gene therapy but not really in patients or in infected people, only in the lab

curb -
stop or reduce something bad
spread (noun, verb) - when something moves out over a larger and larger area กระจายไปทั่ว, แพร่กระจาย, การกระจาย,  การแพร่กระจาย
curbing the spread of - stopping the spread of

held promise - seemed that it would do a job or task successfully

nullbasic held promise for curbing the spread of the virus as well as for treating people who already have AIDS

latent - exists but is not active and has no effect yet; cannot be seen or felt
latent virus

the virus would stay latent, it wouldn't wake up, so it wouldn't develop into AIDS. 

prolong - make longer
window -
window of opportunity, a limited period of time that you have to do something 

window period
prolong this window period

Most people infected with HIV, if left untreated, would develop AIDS about 10 to 15 years later, according to the UN. Antiretroviral treatments can prolong this window period.

halted - stopped
indefinitely - for a period of time with no fixed end ไม่มีข้อกำหนด

the spread of HIV halted indefinitely

medical condition -
something that has a bad or negative effect on a person's health such as a disease or injury, requiring medical treatment
deadly condition - a medical condition that could cause death

bringing an end to the deadly condition

the new Nullbasic therapy, if proven, could see the spread of HIV halted indefinitely, bringing an end to the deadly condition

spell an end to ... - be the thing that ends ...
quality of life - not just money but but all the things that make people happy such as freedom from disease, etc

onerous - a difficult, unpleasant, and disliked task
onerous multiple drug regimes

Using a treatment based on a single protein could spell an end to onerous multiple drug regimes for HIV patients, meaning a better quality of life and lower costs

goes according to plan - everything in plan is completed successfully
Even if all goes according to plan, said Wegmann, a Nullbasic-based treatment was probably about 10 years off.

potential - possible ความเป็นไปได้
strategies - long-term plans for how to succeed in the future กลยุทธ
potential strategies

there are many other potential strategies towards a cure, but so far nothing works and it's not clear whether anything will ever work

results - what is produced in the end by an activity or task
results of animal studies
results of clinical trials

One really has to wait for results of animal studies and clinical trials to really judge this.

figures - statistics, numbers
UN figures show the number of people infected with HIV worldwide rose to 34 million in 2011 from 33.5 million in 2010.

vast - very large, of great size กว้างใหญ่, มหาศาล ส่วนใหญ่
majority - most of the people in a group, i.e., more than half เสียงส่วนใหญ่

the vast majority - much more than 50% (80% or 90% ... )
the vast majority (23.5 million) live in sub-Saharan Africa, with another 4.2 million in South and Southeast Asia.

There were 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths worldwide in 2011 -- 24 percent fewer than in 2005 and nearly six percent below the 2010 level.

income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
low income countries - poor countries
middle income countries - not poor, but not rich countries

decade - a period of ten years ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี
over the past decade

new HIV infections have at least halved in 25 low and middle income countries over the past decade.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer