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What are the Pros and Cons of Using Gene Therapy for HIV?

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  • Written By: C. Daw
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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There are several positive aspects when using gene therapy for HIV, but some downfalls as well. People are considering this type of therapy even more now because the success rate continues to rise. Theoretically, using gene therapy for HIV is very efficient and successful, but in a practical sense, there is still a long road ahead for it to be considered as an effective cure. During this process doctors have to take the risk of destroying inner bodily functions in order to input the new genes. The pros are that if the treatment is successful, no signs of HIV will be left. The cons are that if any of the steps don’t work, there is a huge chance that the patient can end up with even more medical problems than what they had in the first place.

The HIV virus affects the CD4 T cells within the body, which then produce other cells with the same fault, which eventually destroys the entire immune system. The immune system of the body is made up by various internal parts, such as the thymus, lymph nodes, bone marrow, etc. In bone marrow problems, the stem cell is damaged. If a gene that has been modified to stop HIV can be placed in the stem cell, then it can populate the body without reproducing affected cells. The HIV virus will simply die because it has nothing left to damage.

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Studies involving gene therapy for HIV have verified several successful cases. Researchers found that the bodies of people who have received the treatment do not have any signs of HIV after three years. Another technique used in gene therapy for HIV is based on the foundation of blocking two individual co-receptors, the CCR5 and the CXCR4 cells, which will destroy the virus. This is a positive aspect of gene therapy, considering the alternatives which give no true healing of this deadly virus.

Modified genes, as a cure, are packaged with a harmless virus, called the vector, and inserted into the body during the process of gene therapy for HIV. The cons of the gene therapy for HIV relates to the vector. Cases have shown that it can be a risk if the vector doesn’t react with the proper cells, or the vector itself can combine with another virus inside and cause an even greater risk.

To use the vector for the insertion of the modified gene in a stem cell, many times it will be required to destroy the remaining immune system. Chemotherapy is applied to get this result because there is still a chance that the remaining immune system of the body will consider the vector as an invader and will destroy it. As with any other type of aggressive medical procedure, there is always the possibility of something going wrong, which is the negative aspect of using gene therapy for HIV.

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