HIV Gene Therapy Experiment Update — Dec ‘18
Summary: Preliminary data for the efficacy and duration of the plasmid vector looks promising. The 2nd test injection, for a plasmid containing the gene for the HIV neutralizing antibody known as N6, will happen in January or February. I’ll be staying on conventional medicine but will be collecting quantitative data for an accurate measure of the plasmid’s effect over 2–3 months. If/when this initial vector’s durability is confirmed, other vectors will be developed to make a ‘cocktail’ that could suppress the virus indefinitely with practically no chance of evolutionary escape.
It’s been over a year since I first tested a gene vector for suppressing HIV. To be real, we didn’t have much hope of that version 1 would last (i.e., express the antibody) for more than a couple weeks.
The team has been working hard to develop a vector that we believe will last for months, if not years. The primary difference is that the plasmid is much smaller; no longer containing any microbial DNA that might trigger the immune system. This should allow it to slip into more cells, as well as last much longer.
This vector is designed to deliver N6, an antibody originally discovered by the NIH. This antibody was naturally produced by a human, and the team was able to find the gene sequence for creating it. Conventional research teams are investigating the effects of injecting these antibodies as a new form of treating HIV; my experiment looks to cut out the middleman and rely upon the human body to produce these antibodies rather than labs.
The cost of this vector is surprisingly low: only $700. You can pitch in here.
The second difference in this go around is how we are testing for the effect of the gene therapy. In the first test, we used a very indirect, yet important measure: did it impact the viral load and CD4 counts? This go around, we will be testing for the presence of the N6 antibody in my blood directly. After a lot of emails, we were able to secure the materials necessary for precise quantification. I plan on staying on conventional medicine (HAART) during this 2nd test, so that the virus is not able to evolve past N6’s effect.
During the 3rd test, I will try out a combination of gene vectors, each delivering a different antibody. It seems as if a combination of three antibodies is enough to prevent the virus from being able to evolve past the treatment.
My health has been excellent lately. My most recent tests showed excellent liver and kidney function, an undetectable viral load, and a CD4 count greater than 800 — a personal best.
All of this after having been rationing my drug supply for the previous two months. Gilead had given me access to their medicines for free, and then cancelled my access while sending me a letter about it… three weeks after the fact. Fortunately I had a reserve of my old medicine.
I’ve had a heck of a time maintaining consistent access to these medicines. Having multiple day long gaps is dangerous, since it gives the virus a chance to evolve past the medicine’s effects.