Beating HIV with stem cells
A high-risk treatment can eradicate the virus.
An unnamed man in London has become only the second HIV patient ever to be declared free of the virus, after undergoing a bone marrow transplant. The man, who also had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, received bone marrow transplants in 2016 as part of his cancer treatment. They came from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that made his or her CCR5 gene—which allows HIV to enter cells—resistant to the virus. Since the man came off his anti-retroviral pills 18 months ago, the virus hasn’t returned. The first “cured” patient, Timothy Brown, underwent the same procedure about a decade ago. The treatment wouldn’t work for most people with HIV because stem cell transplants carry high risks: They require a patient’s immune system to be wiped out with powerful drugs or radiation and then reconstituted, reports NPR.org. But these new findings suggest “there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable,” says Anton Pozniak, president of the International AIDS Society. “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.” ■