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Donor Cells After Transplant May Not be the Only Cure for HIV

Donor Cells After Transplant May Not be the Only Cure for HIV

Researchers study patients to find cure for HIV that reaches beyond bone marrow transplant recipients.

The Mayo Clinic released a report a couple months ago about a man who experienced a long term remission after a bone marrow transplant.  Now, New Scientist is digging into how donor cells attacking transplant patient cells could potentially cure HIV patients—100%.

We are reminded of the Berlin patient who was cured of HIV ten years ago. Some people thought the transplant itself is what cured him — especially since the bone marrow received came form someone with a gene mutation in the CCR5 gene, but new evidence states that immune reaction to the transplant is what cured him. There are six individuals who have been treated just like the Berlin patient was, and all of them seem to be cured of the virus. Only one of the six received a transplant from a person with the gene mutation. All of the patients, including the Berlin patient contracted graft-versus-host disease after their transplants. The disease causes donor immune cells to attack patient cells. If this disease really is the cure for HIV, health professionals would have to think carefully about actively jump starting this condition in people—it is potentially fatal.

There is a new approach to treating HIV called “kick and kill”. It wakes up dormant virus cells and attacks them. Five individuals have been able to stop taking anti-HIV drugs, but the virus is still present in their immune cells.

Javier Martínez-Picado and Annemarie Wensing including other international researchers are following 23 people with HIV who have received bone marrow transplant. Half of the patients have died, but they are still following and studying the patients’ bodies to see where and how HIV  virus hides in the body. Their hopes are to develop a cure that doesn’t include bone marrow transplants. 

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Rahel Neirene