UK patient 'free' of HIV after stem cell treatment

Mar 06, 2019, 00:41
UK patient 'free' of HIV after stem cell treatment

He received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV infection.

Gupta said the London patient was "functionally cured" and is in remission, but said it was too early to officially say he is cured.

The circumstances in both cases indicate that people with HIV who have cancer, and who need a stem cell transplant to treat it, may be cure candidates. This indicates that other patients, in the same circumstances, should, where possible, receive transplants from a donor with this same gene mutation. His transplant beat cancer without any threatening side-effects, and the transplanted immune cells that were made resistant to HIV appeared to have replaced all the HIV-vulnerable cells in his blood. As of now, people who have been diagnosed with HIV have to take antiretroviral medication to suppress the virus for the rest of their lives.

The London, U.K. patient has not been identified.

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Details of the London patient's case is expected to be reported by the Nature magazine on Tuesday.

But a reservoir of cells carrying HIV can still remain in the body, in a resting state, for many years.

Scientists are looking at finding a way to inject a patient with modified immune cells that can resist the HIV virus. In one example, Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, and his co-workers remove white blood cells from HIV-infected people and then knock out their CCR5 genes with a genome editor called zinc finger nucleases, a precursor to the better known CRISPR.

Both men received stem cells from donors with this mutation. About 37 million people around the world have the viral infection.

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Dr Michael Brady, medical director at HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, praised the breakthrough but said researchers were "still some way off" from establishing a cure. Unlike for Brown, radiotherapy wasn't required and the London patient experienced far less severe consequences than Brown, but Gupta believes the chemotherapy used against the lymphoma was an essential part of its success, temporarily destroying fast-dividing cells so replacement could occur.

The London patient is only the world's second person to go into remission from HIV. The first patient - known as the Berlin patient - received a similar bone-marrow transplant in 2007 and has been HIV-free for more than a decade.

Since the Berlin patient, "cure" and not just treatment has become a topic in HIV research, said Hütter: "This new case supports the idea to seek an HIV cure".

"HIV is a retrovirus, which means that it integrates its genetic information into a host cell's own DNA". The London patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 but did not begin anti-HIV drug therapy, which can keep the virus below detectable levels, until 2012. "The hope is that this will eventually lead to a safe, cost-effective and easy strategy to achieve these results using gene technology or antibody techniques". "There are similarities with the Berlin Patient case, but there are also differences".

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