HIV-Positive Patient Cured by Adult Stem Cell Transplant
    By Hank Campbell | December 15th 2010 01:43 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Writing in Blood, a group says that a 2007 adult stem cell transplant cured a patient of both his HIV and his leukemia.   Up to 33 million people worldwide have HIV/AIDS.

    How did it work and what does it mean?  It was a perfect storm of good fortune for the patient so it's an interesting medical starting point but not really a cure-all just yet.   Timothy Brown, an HIV-positive man in Germany, also had leukemia and was undergoing chemotherapy but he got a bone marrow transplant  from a donor who carried an inherited CCR5 gene mutation that seems to make carriers immune to HIV.

    It was a risky move but it worked and the adult stem cell procedure worked - Brown has been without the leukemia or the HIV since, the new analysis shows.    It's the first case of HIV being cured, even if the circumstances are difficult to replicate because a donor not only has to be compatible, they have to have the mutation.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is kind of a wet blanket about it regardless.   “This patient is trading one poison for another. He may not have to be on antiretroviral drugs anymore, but he has to take immunosuppressant drugs now to prevent the rejection of his transplant cells. Again, what this is, is an interesting proof of concept, but it’s absolutely impractical,” he told Fox News.

    Well, much of science is impractical in the beginning.   As is much of technology in general.  The entire idea of basic research is that impractical ideas lead to breakthroughs which lead to test cases and proof of concept and then applications.  It seems odd that the person representing epidemiology for the US is telling people not to be happy someone got cured of HIV, since that is why the government has spent billions on research.

    Citation: Kristina Allers, Gero Hütter, Jörg Hofmann, Christoph Loddenkemper, Kathrin Rieger, Eckhard Thiel, and Thomas Schneider, 'Evidence for the cure of HIV infection by CCR532/32 stem cell transplantation', Blood First Edition Paper, prepublished online December 8, 2010 DOI 10.1182/blood-2010-09-309591


    I think he's being a wet blanket because he thinks that people wanted an instant, one-size-fits-all solution first. Hell, just knowing that it's possible to do it, even if it's not the most efficient thing in the world, is still pretty awesome.
    "So, I says to him, 'what do you mean my wife is sleeping with a protoplasm!?'"
    I agree with Patrick. Given how irresponsible the media can be when reporting science, I can see how scientist might be very careful in choosing his words. The media tends to exaggerate stories in order to sell papers. I can picture the headlines, "Cure for HIV Found!". Maybe in downplaying expectations, Dr. Anthony Faucie, was just hoping it would come out about right.
    Citizen Philosopher / Science Tutor
    I knew about this a while back. The speed of scientific news needs to improve a great deal. Also, it won't really be known if this is an actual cure until this patient's body is tested for the presence of HIV in brain and spinal tissue which means he will have to die first as these tests would kill him, so until an autopsy is performed this is definitely NOT a "cure" It IS great news but more research is still needed.

    Btw: Anyone else notice that the article says its a cure in the headlines and that it isn't a a cure in the paragraphs? We need to teach media scrutiny as a mandatory course in the schools.

    Hi Paul,

    Yes, the first case study a while ago, since the treatment was in 2007, but the new study shows that HIV was not simply lurking as previously believed, it was indeed 'cured' - it is gone.   The previous studies obviously did not say that because not enough time had passed.

    He is viral free and his cells are resistant to infection now.  That is a cure.  Obviously, as I say, there was a confluence of good fortune so it is not a general purpose treatment but there's no reason for anyone at the National Institutes to not be happy something we have spent billions to cure has been cured, even if once.   Maybe it is just because it was in Germany.