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Light therapy shines for some ARC patients.

Light therapy shines for some ARC patients

Experimental treatment with a combination of ultraviolet radiation and a light-activated drug appears to have bolstered the immune systems of a few people with AIDS-related complex (ARC), according to a new report. The researchers emphasize, however, that these very tentative findings involve only five people diagnosed with an early stage of AIDS and do not demonstrate the treatment's ability to stave off the full-blown disease.

"This is a very preliminary study with a small number of patients," cautions study coauthor Albert S. Klainer of the Morristown (N.J.) Memorial Hospital. Noentheless, he says, "we have seen what appears to be an encouraging clinical and laboratory response."

In the past, other scientists have inactivated the AIDS virus (HIV) in the test tube by treating it with a light-activated drug called psoralen and then exposing it to ultraviolet radiation. Klainer's team took that work a step farther, treating actual patients with a technique called photopheresis, in which blood pretreated with a photoactive drug is temporarily removed from the body and exposed to ultraviolet light.

The researchers treated four men and one woman with ARC on two consecutive days each month for six to 15 months. After administering an oral dose of psoralen to each volunteer, the researchers waited two hours, then removed a pint of blood. They filtered out the red blood cells and immediately injected them back into the patient's bloodstream. For three hours, they exposed the white cells and plasma (The clear portion of blood) to the long "A" wavelengths of the ultraviolet spectrum, and then injected these treated components back into each volunteer.

Within six months, the swollen lymph nodes initially seen in all patients had shrunk and all volunteers showed a rise in HIV-fighting antibodies, the researchers report in the Aug. 15 ANNALS OF INTERNAL MEDICINE. The three patients who remained in the study for 15 months also developed increased levels of white cells called CD4 T-lymphocytes, evidence of a roused immune system.

Though four of the ARC patients reported feeling more energetic as treatment progressed, this could have resulted from a placebo effect, since the study lacked an untreated control group, notes Clifford H. Lane at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The early evidence has convinced the Food and Drug Administration to approve an expanded trial, exploring the treatment's efficacy and safety in up to 20 ARC patients.
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Title Annotation:AIDS-related complex
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 18, 1990
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