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Archive - Mar 3, 2013

First "Functional HIV Cure" Described in an Infant

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have described the first case of a so-called “functional cure” in an HIV-infected infant. The finding, the investigators say, may help pave the way to eliminating HIV infection in children. A report on the case was presented on March 3, 2013 at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center virologist Deborah Persaud, M.D., lead author on the report, and University of Massachusetts Medical School immunologist Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D., headed a team of laboratory investigators. Pediatric HIV specialist Hannah Gay, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center provided treatment to the baby. The infant described in the report underwent remission of HIV infection after receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 30 hours of birth. The investigators say the prompt administration of antiviral treatment likely led to this infant’s cure by halting the formation of hard-to-treat viral reservoirs — dormant cells responsible for reigniting the infection in most HIV patients within weeks of stopping therapy. “Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within days of exposure may help infants clear the virus and achieve long-term remission without lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place,” Dr. Persaud says. The researchers say they believe this is precisely what happened in the child described in the report.

Seven Loci Newly Associated with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

An international group of researchers has discovered seven regions of the human genome—called loci—that are newly associated with increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness. The AMD Gene Consortium, a network of international investigators representing 18 research groups, also confirmed 12 AMD-associated loci identified in previous studies. The new study, which was published online on March 3, 2013 in Nature Genetics and represents the most comprehensive genome-wide analysis of genetic variations associated with AMD, was supported by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health. Lindsay A. Farrer, Ph.D., chief of the biomedical genetics section and professor at Boston University Schools of Medicine (BUSM) and Public Health (BUSPH), is a co-lead author of the study. "This compelling analysis by the AMD Gene Consortium demonstrates the enormous value of effective collaboration," said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. "Combining data from multiple studies, this international effort provides insight into the molecular basis of AMD, which will help researchers search for causes of the disease and will inform future development of new diagnostic and treatment strategies." Since the 2005 discovery that certain variations in the gene for complement factor H—a component of the immune system—are associated with major risk for AMD, research groups around the world have conducted genome-wide association studies to identify other loci that affect AMD risk. These studies were made possible by tools developed through the Human Genome Project, which mapped human genes, and related projects, such the International HapMap Project, which identified common patterns of genetic variation within the human genome.