Published: Wed, March 06, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Stem cell treatment puts HIV into long-term remission in landmark study

Stem cell treatment puts HIV into long-term remission in landmark study

Specifically, the donor had two copies of a version of the CCR5 gene.

He added: "There is no virus there that we can measure".

Gupta went on to tell the outlet that the patient was "in remission" and "functionally cured"; however, "It's too early to say he's cured" completely, said the doctor.

Researchers from University College London announced the finding at the annual conference of retroviruses and opportunistic infections (CROI) ongoing in Seattle, USA this week. Those patients could benefit if they can find a donor with the rare mutation in CCR5 that protects them from HIV re-infection. Treatment for HIV involves medications that suppress the virus, known as antiretroviral therapy, which people with HIV need to take for their entire lives.

He had HIV for more than a decade before two stem-cell transplants, in 2007 and 2008, cleared it from his body.

"I did not want to be the only person in the world cured of HIV", Brown wrote in a medical journal in 2015, explaining why he chose to reveal his identity.

Dr. Timothy Henrich, an associate professor of medicine and physician scientist at University of California, San Francisco's Department of Medicine, also noted that the London patient's treatment "is not a scalable, safe or economically viable strategy to induce HIV remission".

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The "London patient" who was infected with H.I.V. and suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with the CCR 5 mutation in May 2016, the New York Times reported. The CCR5 is a critical protein that must be present for HIV to be able to enter and infect cells. The transplant involved stem cells-cells that are capable of producing more of itself and then grouping to become any other type of cell or tissue through a process called differentiation.

Possibly. The London patient's immune system is now created to block HIV's most common path into cells, using the CCR5 receptor.

"Finding a way to eliminate the virus entirely is an urgent global priority, but is particularly hard because the virus integrates into the white blood cells of its host", Gupta explained.

Some 37 million people worldwide are now infected with HIV and the AIDS pandemic has killed around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s.

Gupta and his team emphasized that bone marrow transplant - a unsafe and painful procedure - is not a viable option for HIV treatment. Essentially, the mutation prevents HIV from being able to get inside people's cells, so it can not cause infection. They will continue to monitor the patient to determine if he has been definitively cured (meaning the HIV does not come back).

The man has chosen to remain anonymous, with scientists referring to him as "the London patient". "I think so." He says he believes that some HIV still remains in the London patient's body, but that because his immune system is now impervious to the virus, the HIV is marooned - like a castaway on a remote island who can not swim.

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