Adult stem cells cure man with HIV, claim scientists

"Our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient," wrote the authors.
Wed Dec 15, 2010 - 6:45 pm EST

December 15, 2010 ( - A team of researchers has claimed that a German patient has been cured of both HIV and leukemia after receiving a bone marrow transplant that included stem cells from an HIV-resistant donor.

“Our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient,” wrote the authors from the Charite-University Medicine Berlin, in the pre-released article on the website of the journal Blood.

The patient, 44-year-old Timothy Ray Brown, first tested positive for HIV in 1995, and then was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006.

After intense chemotherapy failed, doctors turned to the last-ditch option for leukemia sufferers – a highly risky bone marrow transplant.

This time, however, the transplant would have a twist. The doctors decided to search for, and found, a marrow donor with an extremely rare genetic mutation that renders the subject practically invincible to HIV infection.

Now, three years after the transplant, the researchers say that they cannot find any trace of the HIV-infected cells, and have pronounced the patient “cured.”

The extraordinary case is just the latest breakthrough for adult stem cells, which have been used in countless successful therapies, while their much-touted rival, embryonic stem cells, have failed to produce a single viable cure to date.

Despite the promising results in Brown’s case, however, experts warn the cure used on Brown is unlikely to yield any widely applicable HIV cure, given the riskiness of the procedure used and the rarity of the mutation.

Some have also warned that while it may appear that Brown has been completely “cured,” there is the possibility that HIV-positive cells are still lingering in his body.

US AIDS researcher Margaret Fischl told the Miami Herald “I would call this a functional cure.”

“It’s on the level and a very remarkable case. But would we do this with an HIV patient? No.”

  aids, stem cells

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