Monday, January 10, 2005

Genetic HIV Resistance Deciphered

I think that in the future everybody will have blood drawn and have your DNA on file with a genetics company. Once a month that company will figure out all of the new gene discoveries the scientific community has come up with and run your DNA against them to figure out which ones you have. The business model will be very similar to computer virus-updates. So what kind of things code they test for? How about AIDS immunity.

From Wired:

Genetic resistance to AIDS works in different ways and appears in different ethnic groups. The most powerful form of resistance, caused by a genetic defect, is limited to people with European or Central Asian heritage. An estimated 1 percent of people descended from Northern Europeans are virtually immune to AIDS infection, with Swedes the most likely to be protected.

All those with the highest level of HIV immunity share a pair of mutated genes -- one in each chromosome -- that prevent their immune cells from developing a "receptor" that lets the AIDS virus break in. If the so-called CCR5 receptor -- which scientists say is akin to a lock -- isn't there, the virus can't break into the cell and take it over.

To be protected, people must inherit the genes from both parents; those who inherit a mutated gene from just one parent will end up with greater resistance against HIV than other people, but they won't be immune. An estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of those descended from Northern Europeans have the lesser protection.

What can scientists and doctors do with all this information? Doctors could potentially test AIDS patients to see if their genes make them especially vulnerable to progression of the disease, Ahuja said. "This hasn't happened yet, and we aren't there yet. But that would be some practical downstream value of the work we are doing."

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