Hope of a Cure for AIDS

Hope of a Cure for AIDS

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hope of a Cure for AIDS

A recent article here describes two cases where HIV infected men have been declared free of the virus after just a few years, and there is increasing optimism about the hope of a cure for AIDS. The cases were presented at the annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. The article says:

 “The researchers are cautious in declaring the two men cured, but more than two years after receiving bone marrow transplants, HIV can’t be detected anywhere in their bodies. These two new cases are reminiscent of the so-called “Berlin patient,” the only person known to have been cured of infection from the human immunodeficiency virus.”

Hope of a Cure for AIDS

“The widely publicized patient, Timothy Brown, was treated for leukemia with a bone marrow transplant that happened to come from a donor with a genetic mutation that makes immune cells resist HIV infection. The transplant replaced his own infected cells with healthy, AIDS-resistant cells. He is HIV-free five years later.”

“About 34 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, globally; 25 million have died from it. While there’s no vaccine, cocktails of powerful antiviral drugs called antiretroviral therapy (ART) can keep the virus suppressed and keep patients healthy. No matter how long patients take ART, however, they are never cured. The virus lurks in the body and comes back if the drugs are stopped. Scientists want to flush out these so-called reservoirs and find a way to kill the virus for good.”

The cases of Brown, and now these two other men, offer some real hope in the quest for an AIDS cure. The article reports that:

 “Dr. Timothy Henrich and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital launched a search about a year ago for HIV patients with leukemia or lymphoma who had received bone marrow stem cell transplants. Bone marrow is the body’s source of immune system cells that HIV infects and it’s a likely place to look for HIV’s reservoirs.”

Dr Kuritzkes, who works with Dr Henrich, said:

 “If you took an HIV patient getting treated for various cancers, you can check the effect on the viral reservoirs of various cancer treatments,”

Thus two HIV patients were found who had been having sustained treatment for cancer, (lymphoma), and who had both had received stem cell treatment and also stayed on their HIV drugs throughout. Normally such drug therapy is stopped whilst cancer treatment is under way.

Dr Kurtzkes said:

 “We found that immediately before the transplant and after the transplant, HIV DNA was in the cells. As the patients’ cells were replaced by the donor cells, the HIV DNA disappeared. The donor cells, it appears, killed off and replaced the infected cells. And the HIV drugs protected the donor cells while they did it.”

The article reports that:

 “One patient is HIV-free two years later, and the other is seemingly uninfected three-and-a-half years later.”

This is truly amazing and offers real hope for a cure for AIDS in the not too distant future. It seems as though bone marrow stem cells are the key, and it may be necessary to completely wash through the bone marrow and replace the cells with resistant ones. This is a daunting task but researchers are optimistic.

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