A second patient appears to be cured of H.I.V., sparking new hope for a novel treatment

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Twelve years after a first patient was identified as cured of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, a second patient undergoing similar treatment was diagnosed as in long-term remission, according to a New York Times report citing an article in to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature.

The report means that a cure for the disease is possible, but several obstacles remain before it can be developed and applied broadly, according to scientists quoted by the Times.

The findings are set to be presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, on Tuesday.

The successful treatment involved bone-marrow transplants that were given to patients infected with H.I.V. However, the transplants were meant to treat the patients’ cancer — not the virus.

Because of the risks and side-effects associated with bone marrow transplants, using the treatment broadly as a cure for H.I.V. likely isn’t a possibility, and drugs are available to control the infection.

What scientists find promising is the potential to replace infected cells with  immune cells modified to resist H.I.V.

Speaking to The Times, Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center, Utrecht, in the Netherlands said, “This will inspire people that the cure is not a dream.”

Dr. Wensing co-led the team of European scientists that studied stem cell transplants to treat H.I.V. infection.

Backed by the American AIDS research organization, AMFAR, the IciStem organization is the second group of scientists to cure a patient.

Twelve years ago, at the same conference, a German doctor described using bone marrow treatments to cure a patient who was being treated for leukemia. The transplants also cured the patient of H.I.V.

After that initial success several doctors tried to replicate the results, with little to no success. Either patients died of cancer or the virus returned when they stopped taking their anti-retroviral medication.

The crux of the treatment depends on using mutated immune cells that have a variant of the standard CCR5 protein. The mutation blocks H.I.V. from infecting cells by stopping the virus from latching on to host white blood cells.

It’s a treatment that nearly killed the first patient it was used on. However, not all the conditions of that first cure apparently need to be replicated to ensure that a patient remains H.I.V. free following treatment.

The most recent patient was receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and as part of his therapy underwent a bone-marrow transplant from a donor that had the CCR5 mutation to their cells. The patient took a course of immunosuppressive drugs as part of his treatment.

In 2017 the patient stopped taking anti-H.I.V. drugs and has remained disease free ever since.

Despite the success, there’s no guarantee that the new patient will remain disease free. He’s undergone a series of tests to check whether the virus has returned and while all but one diagnostic revealed him to be H.I.V. free, doctors are still monitoring his situation closely.

This isn’t the first time that a scientist has identified the CCR5 protein as holding the potential for an H.I.V. cure.

China’s now-disgraced and imprisoned scientist, He Jiankui, used gene editing to modify the DNA of two children so that they would have the mutated CCR5 — ostensibly making them resistant to the H.I.V. virus.

While Dr. He’s research was premature, and was met with global condemnation, private companies and researchers are pursuing gene therapies to treat the H.I.V. virus.

The Times notes that the CCR5 therapy that’s being developed is only effective on about half of patients who are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Another half are vulnerable or infected to a form of the virus which uses a different protein to enter cells.

One important caveat to any such approach is that the patient would still be vulnerable to a form of H.I.V. called X4, which employs a different protein, CXCR4, to enter cells.

from TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2TArS1m
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Aston Martin’s futuristic hypercar uses your smartphone as its touchscreen

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Aston Martin dropped a hat-trick of announcements today, confirming work on three new vehicles: the Vanquish Vision Concept (codenamed AM9), the AM-RB 003 hypercar and the Lagonda All-Terrain Concept. The Vanquish Vision Concept — which revives the Vanquish name — has been in production for two years. Its arrival marks the first time Aston has put a mid-engine model into series production (which is slated for 2022). The twin-turbocharged engine’s capacity is as-yet unspecified, but is likely to be around 3.0 liters, given the size of similar engines from other carmakers.

Aston’s new AM-RB 003 hypercar (formerly known as Project 003) is also a gas-guzzler. It’ll have the same engine has the AM9 and according to the brand’s press blurb, "will incorporate concepts and technologies taken directly from F1," which will give top-end hypercar rivals a run for their money. Curiously, though, the car will come without a dashboard touchscreen — presumably in a bid to lightweight it as much as possible. Instead, owners will have to mount their own smartphone to the dash if they want to use navigation or play music through Spotify. The company has been a little vague on the specs, but it’s likely to be on the road by 2021.

Aston Martin AM-RB 003

Lastly, there’s the Lagonda All-Terrain Concept — a focal point of Aston’s transition into a luxury all-electric brand. A key takeaway here is the space on offer. The company has taken advantage of the lack of internal combustion engine and has mounted the batteries in the floor, so the vehicle is ultra-roomy on the inside. On the outside, it’s pretty futuristic-looking, which according to Aston boss Andy Palmer, makes it a car well-suited for tech entrepreneurs. "The guys who drive Teslas, not Bentleys and Rolls-Royces," he tells AutoCar. Again, no word on the specifics, but it’s rumored that Aston is hoping for an all-electric range of around 400 miles for the production version, with wireless rapid-charging technology that’ll fully juice up the battery in around 15 minutes.

Follow all the latest news from Geneva Motor Show 2019 here!

Via: The Verge

Source: Aston Martin

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Stem cell transplant offers hope for an HIV cure

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There appears to be more than one promising sign in the quest for an HIV cure. Researchers have given a London patient a bone marrow stem cell transplant that has left him HIV-free for the past 18 months. As the donor has a very rare genetic mutation (CCR5 delta 32) that makes them HIV-resistant, the stem cells sent the HIV into remission with only a "mild reaction" from the treatment. It’s a positive sign, and it suggests that the stem cell transplants that ‘cured’ Tim Brown in 2007 weren’t just flukes.

There are numerous caveats that prevent this from becoming a surefire solution, though. Even if the CCR5 mutation wasn’t extremely rare, you’d still have to match the immunological footprints of the donor and the patient to prevent the bone marrow from reacting badly to the recipient. Also, lead researcher Ravindra Gupta told Wired the transplant was a "last chance of survival" for a patient with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He needed both chemotherapy and the stem cells, the combination of which puts a lot of stress on your body. You likely wouldn’t want to try this unless you’d exhausted other options.

Instead, you’re more likely to see scientists focus on editing existing genes to disable CCR5 and prevent HIV from getting in. That’s considerably harder and could bring controversy, but it would be less drastic and wouldn’t require a highly unlikely donor match. In that light, the newly HIV-free patient is a sign that medical science is on the right track — it’s just going to take a while to reach the end of that track.

Via: Wired

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