Doctors eagerly disclosed at an AIDS conference on Wednesday that a second infant, this time at a hospital in Long Beach, was miraculously displaying signs of potentially being cured of the dread HIV virus after receiving a radical treatment of drugs only 30 hours after being born with the disease. This case represents the second historical phenomenon of possibly triumphing over what was once thought to be an absolute and eventual death sentence, and sadly was for so many. The first marvel was the revolutionary “Mississippi Baby,” who is now nearly 3 and a half years old and has tested virus free since being “cured” in infancy, even after withdrawing from drug treatment almost two years ago. If this second infant, AKA the “Long Beach Baby,” remains successfully “cured” and thriving, even after the drug therapy has concluded, it would signify both the end of HIV and the moment Mankind procured the power to play God.
Has science finally found the rambling road that will eventually lead to a full-fledged cure? If a newborn’s infection can be eradicated it stands to reason that it is certainly possible for an infected adult to attain the same grace. It is only a matter of time it would seem before a whole new world of blissful options opens up for those suffering from the blight of AIDS and HIV.
While millions of the world’s loved ones have already been lost over the decades to the diabolical affliction, just think of how many would be saved in the future with the acclaimed arrival of a long-awaited cure. When the impossible suddenly falls inconceivably into the realm of reason, everything that was once perceived as myth is suddenly within reach. This groundbreaking, life altering discovery doesn’t come without a price, however, as the power to manifest miracles inevitably leads to the power to play God.
No one would argue that a cure for HIV and even possibly AIDS would be a bad thing. In fact, it seems a genuine and undisputable miracle. But while a cure for HIV/AIDS would undoubtedly be a joyous milestone in the timeline of Human achievement, and certainly is at present moment for the second infant in Long Beach, it would simultaneously mark the moment Mankind gained access to Nature’s forbidden tools and began playing God.
No one is suggesting that these Doctors do not pursue the elusive cure, but the question must be begged: where is the line? Wherever it may be drawn, Federal policy and diligent ethical practice are essential in the coming years to ensure these Doctors don’t stray too far into the seductive land of limitless authority over the natural world. This is a pivotal time for both the expanding consciousness of Man and the choices that unfold before him.
While these Doctors in Long Beach achieve their supremacy over nature, another set of Doctors in New England tread perilously along a similar precipice. Their recently published study, involving 12 HIV positive patients, unearthed yet another astounding accomplishment of science, and nature too for that matter. In every human being there are T-cells known as CD4 cells. Expressed within these CD4 cell genes, specifically a set known as Delta 32, is a protein labeled CCR5. To infect a cell, the HIV virus must first identify it using the presence of CCR5. Here’s the glorious loophole: 9 percent of people of European descent have a CCR5 mutation on their Delta 32 allele; rendering them somehow impervious to HIV. So what did the Doctors do with this little mutant blessing from nature? They found a way to replicate the CCR5 mutation for implementation into others without it. The complex procedure would essentially create an immunity to HIV altogether: mind-blowing.
Developing a method to redesign the very genetic makeup of a cell is a truly bewildering feat, one that will open many doors into the vast unknown both positive and potentially wicked. The premise is unequivocally exciting and intriguing, but without steadfast trepidation what’s to stop Pandora’s box from spilling out and wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting world? While these scientific consummations can’t be overlooked or revoked, finding a tediously delicate balance to prevent a future of genetically perfected humans will play just as substantial a role as the science itself.
With the power to prevent disease comes an imposing responsibility and the perpetual challenge of not delving too far into the dark paradox of perfection. Nature always seems to find another way to maintain the upper hand. Although a cure for HIV would be wholeheartedly stupendous, and for that second infant is a real life, heart wrenching miracle, it would also present a new and ever-present temptation to play God to the often times corruptible Mankind. It is truly a fascinating time to be alive, and the future looks to be even more surreal. One can only hope this monumental moment in time will be nurtured with benevolence and profound humanity.
Opinion By Brandon Duringer