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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hope: Stem cell transplant appears to have cured one man from AIDS

Thanks to Sergio R for the link!
From the Huffington Post
Stem Cell Transplant Cures HIV In 'Berlin Patient'

On the heels of World AIDS Day comes a stunning medical breakthrough: Doctors believe an HIV-positive man who underwent a stem cell transplant has been cured as a result of the procedure.

Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the "Berlin Patient," received the transplant in 2007 as part of a lengthy treatment course for leukemia. His doctors recently published a report in the journal Blood affirming that the results of extensive testing "strongly suggest that cure of HIV infection has been achieved."

Brown's case paves a path for constructing a permanent cure for HIV through genetically-engineered stem cells.

Last week, Time named another AIDS-related discovery to its list of the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2010. Recent studies show that healthy individuals who take antiretrovirals, medicine commonly prescribed for treating HIV, can reduce their risk of contracting the disease by up to 73 percent.

While these developments by no means prove a cure for the virus has been found, they can certainly provide hope for the more than 33 million people living with HIV worldwide. Alongside such findings, global efforts to combat the epidemic have accelerated as of late, with new initiatives emerging in the Philippines and South Africa this week.

Allers K, Hütter G, Hofmann J, Loddenkemper C, Rieger C, Thiel E, Schneider1 T (2010) Evidence for the cure of HIV infection by CCR5▲32/▲32 stem cell transplantation. Blood DOI 10.1182/blood-2010-09-309591


HIV entry into CD4+ cells requires interaction with a cellular receptor, generally either CCR5 or CXCR4. We have previously reported the case of an HIV-infected patient in whom viral replication remained absent despite discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy after transplantation with CCR5{Delta}32/{Delta}32 stem cells. However, it was expected that the long-lived viral reservoir would lead to HIV rebound and disease progression during the process of immune reconstitution. In the present study, we demonstrate successful reconstitution of CD4+ T cells at the systemic level as well as in the gut mucosal immune system following CCR5{Delta}32/{Delta}32 stem cell transplantation, while the patient remains without any sign of HIV infection. This was observed although recovered CD4+ T cells contain a high proportion of activated memory CD4+ T cells, i.e. the preferential targets of HIV, and are susceptible to productive infection with CXCR4-tropic HIV. Furthermore, during the process of immune reconstitution, we found evidence for the replacement of long-lived host tissue cells with donor-derived cells indicating that the size of the viral reservoir has been reduced over time. In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient.

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