Until now, no scientific journal had published the results, but a team led by the University of California (UCLA) and Johns Hopkins published the study in the journal Cell. The team claims that the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells increases the chance of curing HIV in people of all racial backgrounds.
Four people are considered cured of HIV: patients from Berlin, London, Düsseldorf, and now New York. All suffered from leukemia and required a bone marrow transplant. The case of the New York patient has several peculiarities: she underwent a transplant of HIV-resistant stem cells from umbilical cord blood, not from a compatible adult donor.
The treatment has yielded “satisfactory long-term results,” according to the study, and “expands the opportunities for people of diverse ancestry living with HIV who require transplantation for other diseases to achieve a cure.” Patients in Berlin, London, and Düsseldorf received stem cell transplants from matched adults who carried two copies of the CCR5-delta32 mutation, a naturally occurring mutation that confers resistance to HIV.
The team transplanted the New York patient with stem cells carrying CCR5-delta32/32 from stored umbilical cord blood in an attempt to simultaneously cure the cancer and HIV. The transplant eliminated both HIV and the leukemia, which had been in remission for over four years. The patient was able to stop taking HIV antiviral medication 37 months after the transplant and has been HIV-free for more than 30 months since stopping antiviral treatment (at the time the study was written, only 18 months had passed).
Stem cell transplants (both with and without the CCR5-delta32 mutation) are only considered for people who need a transplant for other reasons and not to cure HIV in isolation, as it is an invasive procedure. The study highlights the importance of having CCR5-delta32/32 cells in stem cell transplants for HIV patients, as all cures so far have been with this mutated cell population.
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