For the second time since HIV was discovered more than 30 years ago, a patient has been cured of the AIDS-causing virus, according to a study published today. It comes more than a decade after the first cure. Both patients were treated for cancer and received transplants of a mutant HIV-resistant protein. With the success of the second patient and after years of effort, the scientists have proven that the first patient was no coincidence – a cure for HIV is possible, albeit very difficult.
The "London patient", as he is called pseudonym, was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003. He was on antiretroviral therapy, the current standard of care. Since 201
The graft introduced a mutated version of the CCR5 protein into the body of the patient. Typically, HIV spreads through the body by binding to the protein that rests on the surface of the immune cells. However, this specific mutation prevents the virus from attacking the cells. Chemotherapy kills HIV cell replication, reducing the number of infected cells. By replacing immune cells with HIV-resistant versions, the researchers seem to have created a way to cure the infection.
That's what happened 12 years ago, with a man who was then known as the" Berliner Patient ". He also received a bone marrow cancer therapy that introduced the mutant CCR5 into his body, but he nearly died of complications of surgery and harsh immunosuppressants: The researchers wondered if his HIV had only gone into remission because his body was so shaken by the process.
"Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that one would almost have to die to cure HIV, but now maybe you do not," said Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a virologist University College London and the lead author of the study, The New York Times .
With a successful second cure, the scientists hope that there will be more long-term HIV remissions in the future Treatment in the treatment made the experience of the London patient much less exhausting; He underwent a transplant rather than two and received less intensive chemotherapy.
However, this does not mean that bone marrow transplantation and chemotherapy will become the standard cure for HIV infection. Chemotherapy is still highly toxic and there is a risk that patients reject new bone marrow cells from a transplant. Instead, the new research suggests that strategies targeting the mutant CCR5 protein may work in humans infected with the HIV-1 version of the virus. Another form of HIV, X4 infects cells by binding to another protein.
The Question Now you can best use this knowledge. Gene therapy may possibly target CCR5 by replacing the original protein with a mutated, HIV-resistant version. However, these treatments are still far off (if successful at all).
Yet, this second successful HIV response offers hope to patients and researchers.
Timothy Henrich, an adjunct professor of medicine and physician at the University of California, San Francisco's Department of Medicine, tells CNN that he is cautiously optimistic.
"I have hope," he says. "I think it's entirely possible to find a scalable remedy that is safe and can be applied to the vast majority of people living with HIV, but we still have much to do."