Report: Transplant may have cured man of AIDS

Dec 15, 2010 By MARILYNN MARCHIONE , AP Medical Writer

A very unusual blood transplant appears to have cured an American man living in Berlin of infection with the AIDS virus, but doctors say the approach is not practical for wide use. The man, who is in his 40s, had a blood stem cell transplant in 2007 to treat leukemia. His donor not only was a good blood match but also had a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV.

Now, three years later, the recipient shows no signs of leukemia or , according to a report in the .

"It's an interesting proof-of-concept that with pretty extraordinary measures a patient could be cured of HIV," but it is far too risky to become standard therapy even if matched donors could be found, said Dr. Michael Saag of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He is past chairman of the HIV Medicine Association, an organization of doctors who specialize in treating .

Transplants of bone marrow - or, more commonly these days, of blood - are done to treat cancer, and their risks in healthy people is unknown. It involves destroying the person's native immune system with powerful drugs and radiation, then replacing it with donor cells to grow a new immune system. Mortality from the procedure or its complications can be 5 percent or more, Saag said.

"We can't really apply this particular approach to healthy individuals because the risk is just too high," especially when drugs can keep HIV in check in most cases, Saag said. Unless someone with HIV also had cancer, a transplant would not likely be considered, he said.

When the Berlin man's case first surfaced two years ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the procedure was too expensive and risky to be practical as a cure but that it might give more clues to using gene therapy or other methods to achieve the same result.

Explore further: Most Americans with HIV don't have virus under control, CDC says

More information: AIDS information: www.aidsinfo.nih.gov

and www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/

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User comments : 16

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Szkeptik
5 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2010
Getting cured of leukemia and HIV in the same lifetime. He'll have a few stories to tell to his grandchildren.

Anyway, such reports have surfaced over the years, but none of it is reliably enough for widespread use.
satyricon
5 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2010
They should research and study the gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. Didn't they observe this in an isolated population in Africa?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2010
They should research and study the gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. Didn't they observe this in an isolated population in Africa?
Two populations, one in Africa, one in Northern Europe.

The population in Africa has produced individuals who show total immunity to some strains of the virus and strong resistance to other strains of the virus. I think the most notable indivudal has shown high resistance to the 90 someodd most common strains.
finitesolutions
1.3 / 5 (12) Dec 15, 2010
I can not believe that such a complex machine/organism as a human gets shutdown/killed by an simple life as HIV virus. I mean the humans should treat the HIV virus as food: no nutritional value in HIV than it should be disposed of. And this is it. All this scare of being infected is overrated. The HIV virus should adapt and live off some other hosts but humans : we are not HIV food. H
moj85
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2010
I'll be interested when 10,000 people transplanted get cured of HIV. One example is not a breakthrough (could just be false positives?)
lexington
5 / 5 (5) Dec 15, 2010
You think there were two years worth of false positives?
Quantum_Conundrum
3.8 / 5 (4) Dec 15, 2010
I can not believe that such a complex machine/organism as a human gets shutdown/killed by an simple life as HIV virus.


The more complex a system is the easier it is to disrupt, because there are more things that can go wrong.

Take the space shuttle, for example. Something went wrong with it almost every launch, whether it was something very minor that didn't really even matter, or whether it was something catastrophic.

I am glad for this discovery, and I hope that these rare cases can be cross-referenced for common denominators that would lead to a cure.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (8) Dec 15, 2010
I can not believe that such a complex machine/organism as a human gets shutdown/killed by an simple life as HIV virus. I mean the humans should treat the HIV virus as food: no nutritional value in HIV than it should be disposed of. And this is it. All this scare of being infected is overrated. The HIV virus should adapt and live off some other hosts but humans : we are not HIV food. H

Put a number two washer in the valve train of your car's transmission and tell me how that simple item works out inside that complex device.
rynox
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
They should research and study the gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. Didn't they observe this in an isolated population in Africa?
Two populations, one in Africa, one in Northern Europe.

The population in Africa has produced individuals who show total immunity to some strains of the virus and strong resistance to other strains of the virus. I think the most notable indivudal has shown high resistance to the 90 someodd most common strains.


Is it possible this is an adaptation?
alq131
5 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2010
I can not believe that such a complex machine/organism as a human gets shutdown/killed by an simple life as HIV virus. I mean the humans should treat the HIV virus as food: no nutritional value in HIV than it should be disposed of. And this is it. All this scare of being infected is overrated. The HIV virus should adapt and live off some other hosts but humans : we are not HIV food.


Well, unfortunately, we are food...
http://www.physor...ans.html
CSharpner
5 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2010
Is it possible this is an adaptation?

Depends on what your definition of "adaptation" is. If you mean that this immunity came about because of the virus, I doubt that's what happened. Most likely, it was just random luck that these people's DNA just happened to produce bodies that are good at fighting this virus. But, over many generations, this population in west Africa will likely have an advantage and will likely reproduce more than those that aren't immune, thereby "evolving" the population. The "species" will likely "adapt" over many generations (by the current crop of HIV immune individuals being the ones that repopulate the following generations)... assuming that they continue in the same amount of unprotected, multiple-partner sex they're currently engaging in. For natural selection to occur, the population will have to be continually exposed to the "environmental pressure" of this virus.
SoulmanOtto
1.2 / 5 (23) Dec 15, 2010
The more complex a system is the easier it is to disrupt, because there are more things that can go wrong.
Depends. Some are complex due in part to built-in redundancy like our brains or quantum computers. The shuttle has redundant systems and so these errors did not result in abort or catastrophe. Usually.
GaryB
not rated yet Dec 16, 2010
I can not believe that such a complex machine/organism as a human gets shutdown/killed by an simple life as HIV virus.


I will tell the humans what you believe. Who will tell the virus?

I'm just the opposite: Bacteria and viruses mutate at 10000x our rate. Why are there any complex animals left? Why can some fast changing infectious disease take us all out?
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2010
30% or more of our DNA exists out of left overs from vira.

http://www.nytime...;ei=5087

I do beleive, and it makes sense, that most of our evolution is to thank vira for it.

Who knows maybe we are the virus in the big creature that we call the universe : ) (a serious joke)
sender
not rated yet Dec 16, 2010
reason to utilize induced pluripotent stemcell tech and mass produce the required marrow hopefully with ECM and some plasma jet tools which are utilized for rootcanals a simple piecemeal transplant could offer immunity
ekim
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2010
It seems that this man had his immune system wiped out and replaced to eliminate his leukemia. This might not be necessary for curing a persons HIV. Couldn't some immune stem cells be harvested and altered genetically to be resistant to HIV. When re-injected the new cells would take over as the HIV wipes out the old immune system. Eventually curing the person. Just a thought.

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