Genetic manipulation of somatic cells may be of therapeutic value in a variety of infectious diseases, particularly in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Stable insertion of custom-designed 'resistance genes' into cells susceptible to HIV could reduce the viral burden in infected individuals and potentially retard the characteristic progressive immune dysfunction. Alternatively, ectopic expression of genes that encode viral antigens might induce potent antiviral immune responses and form the basis for novel prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines. While laboratory studies have proved that the approach works in principle, preclinical and clinical studies will be necessary to evaluate the therapeutic benefit of such gene-based therapies.
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