Five years after a 1999 car crash left Eric Ramsey a victim of locked-in syndrome--essentially a conscious mind trapped inside a completely unresponsive body, unable even to blink--he soon found himself on the cutting edge brain research. In an attempt to allow Ramsey to communicate with the outside world, scientists implanted a device in his brain linking it directly to a speech synthesizer. After years of practice, Ramsey could generate vowel sounds just by thinking of them.
Now, 36 months after Ramsey began the trial that partially reconnected his isolated mind to the rest of the world, the researchers who implanted the device in Ramsey's brain have revealed how they produced this nearly miraculous outcome.
While some viruses attack the lungs, and others the blood, HIV attacks the only system that could put up a fight: the immune system itself. The immune system mounts some defense, but after HIV launches its surprise attack, the body simply can't produce enough killer T blood cells to take out the virus.
Now, thanks to researchers at UCLA, it's payback time for the blood cells. A team of scientists have plucked T-cells out of someone infected with HIV, and used them as a template for creating an army of HIV-fighting immune cells out of stem cells. Essentially a genetic vaccine, this technique could be used to copy T-cells designed to fight any virus, opening up the possibility of universal vaccination via stem cell implantation.