Stem cell transplant cures HIV in the Berlin Patient

Stem cell transplant cures leukemia patient of HIV.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

HIV-positive Timothy Ray Brown had leukemia. But now doctors are claiming that he's been cured of HIV. It's been three years since the patient received a transplant for leukemia. You might remember him as the "Berlin Patient.

Popular Science explains it well:

But these were no ordinary stem cells – a mutation found in just one percent of Caucasians in northern and western Europe causes CD4 cells to lack the CCR5 receptor, a receptor necessary for early-stage HIV to infect CD4 immune system cells. People with this mutation are more or less immune to HIV infection.

Those anti-HIV stem cells took root in the Berlin patient and repopulated there. At the same time, the host CD4 cells that hadn’t been destroyed in chemotherapy and radiation completely disappeared. After 38 months, doctors still couldn’t find HIV infection in the Berlin patient – in other words, it seems by all measures that his HIV has been cured.

So what do the scientists have to say? The researchers wrote in the journal Blood:

In conclusion, our results strongly suggestthat cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient.

But doctors warn that this was probably a one-off case. And there's a chance the virus is hiding in the patient's blood.

Either way, it's not clear if it would work in typical cases. To completely claim the patient is cured - the trial would have to involve a patient who is otherwise healthy and doesn't have leukemia.

via Huffington Post


This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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