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Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Aids virus could fight disease

The virus that causes aids could be useful
The HIV virus could soon be used to fight genetic diseases, cancer and even HIV itself, says a research team.

The team, based in the Pasteur Institute in Paris, has shown that the HIV virus is capable of introducing genes into an organism to replace the faulty genes which can provoke genetic diseases.

"All the genes in the virus would be replaced by 'healing-genes', and we would only keep of the virus the machinery which allows it to penetrate into cells," Dr Pierre Charneau told a conference in Paris on Thursday

He played down fears that even a modified virus could prove harmful to humans.

"We are 100 percent certain that there is no risk of accidentally spreading Aids using this technique because ... we know no residual virus would survive," he said.

Charneau, 36, works in the viral oncology unit run by Luc Montagnier, one of the pioneers of AIDS research.

Established practice

It is common practice in gene research to use viruses to carry modified genes into the cells of patients.

Very often, a common cold virus, or adenovirus is the chosen method.

But other scientists have experimentally used HIV as a viral "vector".

No successful gene therapy for HIV infection has yet been developed, and simply developing the HIV virus as a possible carrier for the therapy brings that no closer.

An example of a disease which doctors hope will eventually be successfully treated with gene therapy is cystic fibrosis.

However, the safety of gene therapy treatments has yet to be confirmed, as high doses may have to be given to tackle some conditions.

A young seriously-ill patient taking part in a gene therapy trial last year died after developing liver problems.

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23 Nov 99 | Health
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