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Did Scientists Discover a Cure for HIV?

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Did Scientists Discover a Cure for HIV?

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A group of scientists recently published research in Nature on two patients, known as the “London patient” and the “Düsseldorf patient,” who seem to have been cured of HIV after receiving stem cell therapy. Both patients stopped taking their HIV medication when they were given stem cell transplants instead to treat a hematological (blood) disease. Despite the fact that they stopped taking the HIV medication, scientists did not see a relapse in HIV in either of the patients.

Until now, there had only been one patient, known as Timothy Ray Brown or the “Berlin patient,” who was cured of HIV through stem cell transplants. The donor’s cells had CCR5-delta 32 mutant, a gene defect that results in the absence of entry gatekeepers that HIV uses to infect cells. In addition to receiving two stem cell transplants, the Berlin patient also received aggressive chemotherapy and total body irradiation. It is believed that traces of HIV remain in him, but he has not relapsed for twelve years.

After a successful stem cell transplantation of the London patient, Professor Ravi Gupta from University College London was prompted to present it as a potential cure of HIV. Coincidentally, Dr. Björn Jensen from Düsseldorf  University discovered that his Düsseldorf patient was also cured using stem cell transplants.

Both the London patient and the Düsseldorf patient received treatment through IciStem program, which is an international collaboration to guide and investigate the possibility of a cure of HIV through stem cell transplantation.

The London patient has gone 18 months now without experiencing a relapse, which is the longest adult HIV remission since the Berlin patient. Director of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg’s HIV Pathogenesis Research Unit Maria Papathanasopolous told Good News Network that “the London patient is the second HIV-positive man considered to be in a prolonged remission after a bone marrow transplant from a CCR5 negative donor.” The Düsseldorf patient has gone three and a half months without a relapse. After only one transplant and mild cancer chemotherapy without radiation, these patients only have traces of HIV in them and are now considered in remission.

This represents a critical moment in our search for an HIV cure. It reaffirms our belief that one day it will be possible to cure HIV infection with a safe, cost-effective, and easily accessible strategy.”

— Maria Papathanasopolous

According to Good News Network, Deputy Executive Director at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute Professor Francois Venter said, “To be clear, this is not an option yet for people with HIV, even in very rich countries, but it is a major step forward. This is incredibly exciting, as it furthers our understanding of the complex immunology of HIV and should get us closer to a cure.”

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