The epidemic of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is one of the leading health problems today. The World Health Organization estimates that by the end of 2020, over 37 million people worldwide were HIV-positive.
HIV is a virus that affects the human immune system and weakens the body’s immune response, which makes patients more susceptible to various infections, compared to healthy individuals. Unfortunately, the occurrence of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is not uncommon, which indicates an already advanced stage of infection. With the infection of AIDS, the chances of developing certain types of cancer, severe infections and other complications are higher.
There are stories of a London and Berlin patient, two men cured of HIV by a bone marrow transplant from a donor who has a rare gene mutation (homozygous Δ-32 deletion in a gene encoding a CCR5 protein) that prevents infection with the virus. However, less than a month ago, there was news of a third person being cured. This time it is about a woman from New York, who can attribute her healing to a completely new therapeutic approach.
A New York patient was diagnosed with HIV in 2013. That same year she started using antiretroviral therapy, which helps suppress the virus. 4 years later, in addition to HIV, the patient was confirmed with a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer that primarily attacks the bone marrow and produces uncontrolled leukocytes.
As part of a clinical trial based in the USA, the patient received a combination of human stem cells obtained from the blood of a relative, and umbilical cord blood obtained from a “blood bank”. The umbilical cord blood sample used was selected because it contains the same gene mutation as the bone marrow samples received by the Berlin and London patients. Stem cells were used to strengthen the patient’s immune system in the period after the transplant procedure.
The transplant itself took place in 2017, after which she continued to use antiretroviral therapy for 3 years. Almost 14 months after stopping therapy, no virus was detected in her blood sample.
Unlike bone marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood transplantation is a less invasive procedure. The advantage is that these blood samples are relatively available, and there is a higher degree of compatibility between the donor and the patient, in comparison to the bone marrow. This therapeutic approach, if the treatment proves successful over a larger number of patients, could be a revolutionary step in the therapy of this virus.
https://www.livescience.com, Third person cured – hiv stem cell transplant from cord blood, visited on 6/3/2022
https://www.who.int, hiv-aids, visited on 6/3/2022