For Only The Second Time In History HIV Patient Achieves Total Remission
For only the second time in history, a patient carrying the HIV-1 virus has reached total remission of the deadly disease. The previous case occurred 12 years ago, when a patient received a transplant of hematopoietic stem-cells from a donor possessing a specific HIV-resistant gene mutation. This patient, an American named Timothy Brown yet dubbed the “Berlin Patient” underwent an aggressive radiation treatment during each transplant, and for all intents and purpose, wound up cured of HIV-1.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the name of both a virus and corresponding infection which attacks and destroys certain cells in the immune-system, leading to a reduced ability to fight off infectious diseases and cancers. AIDS is the most acute version of the HIV infection.
Hematopoietic stem-cells are immature cells found in bone-marrow that can develop into all types of blood cells including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
The donor of the stem cells was identified as having two copies of a mutation in the CCR5 co-receptor, a small protein lying on the outside of the cell membrane which facilities outside bodies like the HIV-1 virus to enter the host cell. The co-receptor mutation found in the donor’s genetic makeup produces CCR5 proteins which are resistant to attempts by HIV-1 to bind to it. Gene mutations like this occur in genes all over the body, and can affect things as unrelated and varied as caffeine metabolism, and disease risk.
Dr. Ravindra Gupta and a team from University College London undertook a similar yet gentler treatment plan involving a stem-cell transplant to the one administered to the “Berlin Patient”. After 18 months there were undetectable amounts of DNA and RNA born of the HIV virus within the blood plasma of the patient, and no radiation needed to be administered.
“We’re now eighteen months in and we’re confident that this will be a long term remission, but it’s too early to say whether this will be a cure or not,” says Dr. Gupta.