Stem cell transplant offers hope for an HIV cure


Brown was diagnosed with 1995. "I think that finding a scalable cure that is safe and can be applied to a vast majority of individuals living with HIV is definitely attainable, but we have a lot more work to go". Thus, even if all the circulating virus is eliminated, infected cells can just produce more. Because it's a virus, it can't replicate on its own, but instead needs to co-opt the machinery of another cell in order to reproduce, so it can only replicate when it infects other cells. President Trump has been a proponent of cutting the budget allocated to fighting HIV and directing energies t5owards find a cure.

This is why blood stem cells (also called hematopoietic stem cells or bone marrow cells) are so significant. Scientific research into the complex virus has led to the development of drug combinations that can keep it at bay in most patients. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people - majority of northern European descent - who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.

But replacing immune cells with those that do not have the CCR5 receptor appears to be key in preventing HIV from rebounding after the treatment. That's considered high risk, as the elimination process involves high levels of radiation or toxic chemicals. To treat the cancer, the London patient agreed to a treatment called a stem cell transplant.

The UK researchers say it may be possible to use gene therapy to target the CCR5 receptor in people with HIV, now they know the Berlin patient's recovery was not a one-off. Currently, there are powerful and effective drugs available to control HIV infection with few or no side-effects. The team also found that his white blood cells now can not be infected with CCR5-dependent HIV strains, indicating the donor's cells had engrafted.

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.

The London patient has been off HIV medications for 18 months now, and is still HIV-free, the researchers said. That year, he was also diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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Brown, apart from being HIV-positive, had leukemia and had bone marrow transplant after chemotherapy proved futile.

Researchers from University College London announced the finding at the annual conference of retroviruses and opportunistic infections (CROI) ongoing in Seattle, USA this week.

Then, in 2016, he developed a kind of cancer that affects the immune system, the part of the body that fights disease. After standard treatments failed, they gave the patient a stem-cell transplant - essentially killing off his old immune system and giving him a new one.

The CCR5 gene, and the eponymous cell it codes for, nearly certainly play a crucial role in the collateral HIV cure. About a year and a half after the transplant, with no indications of an active infection, antiviral therapies were stopped. In other words, something about this person's body made it impossible for him or her to become infected with the HIV virus.

He said: "But what we are able to say with certainty is that, through early diagnosis and access to treatment, you can live a long, healthy life with HIV and be confident you won't pass the virus to your sexual partners".

After initial hiccups, the transplant was successful.