Doctor 'cures' HIV with bone marrow transplant

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    Nov 13, 2008 12:11 PM GMT
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/3448558/Doctor-cures-HIV-with-bone-marrow-transplant.html

    Doctor 'cures' HIV with bone marrow transplant
    A German doctor claims to have "cured" HIV in a patient by giving him a bone marrow transplant.

    By David Wroe and Kate Devlin
    Last Updated: 8:39AM GMT 13 Nov 2008

    Gero_Huetter_1113131c.jpg


    "HIV has an Achilles heel.'' Dr Huetter found a cure for the virus while treating a patient for leukaemia Photo: AP
    The man, a 42-year-old American living in Berlin, has shown no trace of the virus in the nearly two years since Dr Gero Huetter, a haematologist, gave him the operation - a standard treatment for leukaemia, from which the patient was also suffering.

    The breakthrough gives hope for cutting-edge gene therapies to tackle the disease that killed 2 million people worldwide last year and infected another 2.7 million.

    Working on a hunch, Dr Huetter selected a bone marrow donor who had a genetic resistance to most strains of HIV in the hope that the transplanted marrow would produce HIV-resistant cells in his patient.

    It appears to have worked, and yesterday Dr Huetter declared his patient ''functionally cured''.

    The patient has taken no anti-retroviral drugs, the standard treatment for AIDS, since the transplant.

    "HIV has an Achilles heel,'' Dr Huetter told a press conference in Berlin.

    That "Achilles" heel is a molecule that sits on the outside of a human cell and acts as a doorway to let HIV invade the body.

    People with the genetic resistance have a mutation which blocks the production of the molecule, giving carriers a life-long resistance to most strains of HIV.

    About 1 per cent of Europeans have the mutation, but people of African, Asian and South American descent almost never carry it.

    Though bone marrow transplants are not an effective therapy, since they are expensive and kill up to 30 per cent of recipients, it offers hope that AIDS patients' cells could be re-engineered using gene therapy.

    US expert David Baltimore, who won a Nobel prize for his research on cancer viruses, described the breakthrough as "a very good sign'' and virtual "proof of principle'' for gene therapy cures, while cautioning the case could be a fluke.

    Though the case has provoked great excitement, most experts are likely to remain wary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Will Nutland, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "This give researchers a new avenue to explore but it should be remembered that we do not know what will happen to this patient in the long-term and that this has only been tried in one person.

    "Also, if it is a breakthrough it will be a breakthrough in decades rather than years."

    He added that HIV could remain in the body at undetectable levels for years.

    Around 60,000 people in Britain are thought to be infected with HIV, including an estimated 20,000 who have yet to be diagnosed with the virus.
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    Nov 13, 2008 1:36 PM GMT
    I heard about this on the news this morning...
    How AWESOME could this be!!

    Thanks for sharing some GOOD news! icon_biggrin.gif
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    Nov 13, 2008 3:58 PM GMT
    cough(bullshit)cough
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    Nov 13, 2008 4:08 PM GMT
    blinktwice4y saidcough(bullshit)cough


    why would you say that?

    any breakthrough is definitely worth exploring.
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    Nov 13, 2008 4:12 PM GMT
    danielryan said
    blinktwice4y saidcough(bullshit)cough


    why would you say that?

    any breakthrough is definitely worth exploring.



    No doubt
    enlighten us with what you know...
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    Nov 13, 2008 4:14 PM GMT
    I hope this isn't a fluke
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    Nov 13, 2008 4:25 PM GMT
    one trial means nothing.

    irresponsible to publish results before you have a better understanding of what actually happened.

    interesting maybe, promising no.


    "As of today, more than 20 months after the successful transplant, no HIV can be detected in the patient," the clinic said in a statement.

    "We performed all tests, not only with blood but also with other reservoirs," Dr Schneider said. "But we cannot exclude the possibility that it's still there."

    The researchers, however, stressed that this would never become a standard treatment for HIV.

    Bone marrow stem cell transplants are rigorous and dangerous and require the patient to first have his or her own bone marrow completely destroyed.


    reminds me of:
    Cold Fusion: In 1989 chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman, of the University of Utah, claimed to have solved the world's energy problems by discovering cold fusion. However, no-one has since been able to replicate their findings of nuclear fusion in heavy water.


    i admit that was a premature "bullshit" but my bullshit detector went off.
    however, ruling things out is helpful as well. the media just always portrays science poorly.

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    Nov 13, 2008 4:32 PM GMT
    i hope it's not a fluke too.
    not that i think that a bone marrow transplant is simple, but it is not an unheard of procedure... wouldn't it be amazing if that were all it took?

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    Nov 13, 2008 5:06 PM GMT
    These transplants are definitely not a feasible treatment for HIV, it definitely helps in the fight against the virus.
    Yes, they think the virus is probably still in the man's body, as they should. Viruses are incredible organisms that have perfected the ability to hide out in the body. This is why they're calling the man 'functionally cured' -- he does not have the cell receptor CCR5 (his genotype is CCR5-D32 I believe) so the HIV virus within him cannot bind to this receptor and therefore cannot cause harm.
    Pfizer has already developed a drug that attacks this receptor so that HIV can't (I believe this is in the article).
    I have studied very little in both immunology and virology, so my question is what about the other molecule on CD4 T Cells (CXCR4) HIV can attack - and other molecules on top of that. Perhaps the strain this man has only attacks CCR5, but I am not sure of that.
    I think that it is probably safer for an infected patient to take HAART than receive a marrow transplant, but, again, this is definitely an important discovery.
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    Nov 13, 2008 5:42 PM GMT
    Here's a little more info from an AP article on the topic.

    "Before the transplant, the patient endured powerful drugs and radiation to kill off his own infected bone marrow cells and disable his immune system — a treatment fatal to between 20 and 30 percent of recipients.

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases in the U.S., said the procedure was too costly and too dangerous to employ as a firstline cure. But he said it could inspire researchers to pursue gene therapy as a means to block or suppress HIV."


    This is good news in that it points researchers in a new direction, but it is not going to be widely used when it has such a high probability of killing the patient. The treatment was mainly for the patient's leukemia; the HIV part was something they threw in as a test.

  • stevendust

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    Nov 13, 2008 6:08 PM GMT
    txsoccers16 saidThese transplants are definitely not a feasible treatment for HIV, it definitely helps in the fight against the virus.
    Yes, they think the virus is probably still in the man's body, as they should. Viruses are incredible organisms that have perfected the ability to hide out in the body. This is why they're calling the man 'functionally cured' -- he does not have the cell receptor CCR5 (his genotype is CCR5-D32 I believe) so the HIV virus within him cannot bind to this receptor and therefore cannot cause harm.
    Pfizer has already developed a drug that attacks this receptor so that HIV can't (I believe this is in the article).

    This is correct. It's not just any bone marrow transplant, the donor has to have this natural resistance.1% of Europeans have it, so imagine a fraction of that number since you have to be a match to the donor as well. Hopefully they can work on this and make it more widely accepted.
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    Nov 13, 2008 6:28 PM GMT
    I always fret that stories such as this make people lose site of the more important point that we have to make sure people stop getting this disease in the first place.

    Safe sex, please!
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    Nov 13, 2008 7:18 PM GMT
    The best way to look at this is like the discovery of penicillin. Though it was discovered in mold, munching on fungus isn't the best way for consumption; instead, it provided a starting block for the medical research and processes that followed. So yeah, a bone marrow transplant for the 1% of people who have a resistance isn't the best way to treat it.....but it provides a starting block for further research.
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    Nov 15, 2008 7:04 AM GMT
    Just to add something else to the "step in the right direction" comments -- In the lab I'm working, a researcher is currently working on a method for creating this mutation or in some way disabling CCR5 in a patient's own cells. If/when this becomes possible, the next step is to find a way to make this change to all of the patient's cells before the virus can mutate within the patients body and get around the CCR5 defect.
    Exciting stuff!
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    Nov 15, 2008 7:47 AM GMT
    I think it is a bit premature to be calling this a cure. It needs alot and I mean alot of study still before anything may come out of this.

    There are many challenges even with this case. It may come back. This could be isolated just to him...

    Hope is amazing though! I hope this is the breakthrough we need!

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    Nov 15, 2008 7:58 AM GMT
    I donated bone marrow to one of my siblings, and despite being a match (and the only possible match), the donated tissue rejected the recipient's body. This form of transplantation is the only one in which the donated tissue can reject the recipients body, as opposed to the recipient body rejecting the new tissue, even if they are a match, further complicating the matter along with other factors mentioned by others.

    Research is meant to be challenged if we are going to benefit from it...a significant finding nevertheless.