Stem Cell Transplant Defeats HIV? Patient Still HIV Free After 2 Years

Add one more name to the ever growing list of diseases that have been defeated by stem cell treatments: HIV. That’s right, according to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, a stem cell transplant performed in Germany has unexpectedly removed all signs of HIV from a 42 year old American patient. The unnamed white male was treated two years ago for Leukemia with a dose of donor stem cells and his HIV RNA count has dropped to zero and remained there since. While the treatment was for Leukemia, Dr. Gero Hutter and colleagues at the Charite Universitatsmedizen in Berlin had selected the stem cell donor for his HIV resistant genes. While there are still many questions unanswered, this is the first such case of stem cells treating HIV that has been reported in a NEJM-caliber publication. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a “cure” for HIV/AIDS, but it is certainly a remarkable and promising find. There’s more you need to know about the situation, so read on.

Like so many instances of “miraculous medicine”, this case has its complexities. First, the patient was being treated for Leukemia, not HIV. The patient had been HIV positive for ten years before the first stem cell treatment. His HIV medication was actually treating his condition fairly well, and it wasn’t until a round of chemotherapy (for the Leukemia) raised his HIV count that it looked to be troublesome. The original transplant from two years ago may have dropped his HIV count, but his Leukemia returned a year later. Another dose of stem cells was given and this seems to have treated the cancer as well as maintain its effect on the HIV.

Secondly, their’s the DNA of the donor to consider. Due to a genetic mutation (CCR5), the donor has a resistance to the HIV virus. Such resistance occurs in 1-3% of white males of European descent. Furthermore, while a single copy of this CCR5 gene can grant some resistance to HIV, the donor had two copies, which often leads to a good chance of full resistance to the virus. Dr. Hutter and colleagues were fully aware of the CCR5 in the donor when selecting him.

Stem Cell Transplant Defeats HIV? Patient Still HIV Free After 2 Years | Singularity Hub.

The Recent Future / February 27, 2010 / Health / 0 Comments

Diagnosis: Broken-Heart Syndrome

Dorothy Lee and her husband of 40 years were driving home from a Bible study group one wintry night when their car suddenly hit the curb. Mrs. Lee looked at her husband, who was driving, and saw his head bob a couple of times and fall on his chest.

In the ensuing minutes, Mrs. Lee recalls, she managed to avoid a crash while stopping the car, called 911 on her cellphone and tried to revive her husband before an ambulance arrived. But at the hospital, soon after learning her husband had died of a heart attack, Mrs. Lee’s heart appeared to give out as well. She experienced sudden sharp pains in her chest, felt faint and went unconscious.

When doctors performed an X-ray angiogram expecting to find and treat a blood clot that had caused Mrs. Lee’s symptoms, they were surprised: There wasn’t any evidence of a heart attack. Her coronary arteries were completely clear.

Doctors eventually determined that Mrs. Lee had suffered from broken-heart syndrome, a name given by doctors who observed that it seemed to especially affect patients who had recently lost a spouse or other family member. The mysterious malady mimics heart attacks, but appears to have little connection with coronary artery disease. Instead, it is typically triggered by acute emotion or physical trauma that releases a surge of adrenaline that overwhelms the heart. The effect is to freeze much of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, disrupting its ability to contract and effectively pump blood.

The phenomenon is a “concussion” of the heart, says Scott Sharkey, a cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute. “It’s really a heart attack which is triggered by stress rather than by a blocked artery,” he says.

Diagnosis: Broken-Heart Syndrome – WSJ.com.

The Recent Future / February 10, 2010 / Health / 0 Comments

Google leaps language barrier with translator phone

GOOGLE is developing software for the first phone capable of translating foreign languages almost instantly — like the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

By building on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation, Google hopes to have a basic system ready within a couple of years. If it works, it could eventually transform communication among speakers of the world’s 6,000-plus languages.

The company has already created an automatic system for translating text on computers, which is being honed by scanning millions of multi-lingual websites and documents. So far it covers 52 languages, adding Haitian Creole last week.

Google also has a voice recognition system that enables phone users to conduct web searches by speaking commands into their phones rather than typing them in.

via Google leaps language barrier with translator phone – Times Online.

The Recent Future / February 8, 2010 / SciFi, Star Trek Did It!, Tech / 0 Comments

Water Freezes When Heated

Usually water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures below that. But now scientists – reporting today in the journal Science — have found a way to keep water in a liquid form at -40 degrees F. What’s more, the scientists have found another way to make the water freeze when it’s heated. It’s a curious phenomenon to say the least, but the results could have implications for computer climate modeling. Igor Lubomirsky and his colleagues from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science achieved this unusual feat using dust-free water on materials called pyroelectric amorphous solids, which change their electrical charge depending on their temperature.

One of the materials the scientists looked at was lithium tantalate. At 12 degrees F, the material has a negative charge. But raise the temperature to 17.6 degrees F, and it has a positive charge.

When the scientists put dust-free water on the material, the freezing point no longer was the normal 32 degrees. In fact, the freezing point depended on the charge. The scientists were able to supercool the water down -40 F without it freezing.

A negative charge did the opposite. So when they applied a negative charge to the surface, thereby raising the temperature to 17, the “heated” water froze.

via Water Freezes When Heated : Discovery News.

The Recent Future / February 5, 2010 / Nature, SciFi / 0 Comments