Three Skeletons Could Hold The Key To Ending HIV

By: Daniel Villarreal
7.30.2012

A bone marrow transplant seemingly cured Timothy Brown (pictured left) of HIV. And now the same procedure may have cured two other HIV-positive men as well.

News about the two men—a 50-year-old infected in the early 1980s and a 20-year-old infected at birth—broke last Thursday during the 19th annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C..

According to MSNBC, "both men had endured multiple rounds of treatment for lymphoma, both had stem cell treatments and both had stayed on their HIV drugs throughout" the bone marrow transplantation process.

HIV Plus Mag explains:

Within eight months of their respective transplant surgeries, it was discovered that the patients' cells were replaced by cells from the HIV-negative bone marrow donors. The men also now show no signs of HIV in their DNA or RNA. Levels of HIV antibodies have also decreased.

But doctors haven't called these men "cured" for a few reasons. For one, both men also had a genetic mutation that created some HIV-immune cells in their bodies before the bone marrow transplants ever took place. That is, their genetic mutation makes them unlike the vast majority of HIV-positive people, including Mr. Brown.

Also, researchers still have to test the men's body tissues more closely for evidence of HIV. If they are cured, the high costs of bone marrow transplants won't make them an ideal treatment for the millions of people currently infected.

So while it's too early to call their treatment a cure, more than two years later both men still seem HIV-negative and soon researchers will begin studying the effects of bone marrow transplants on other HIV-positive patients.

Brown said, "This reinforces my determination and belief that we must [continue...] investing in cutting-edge therapies and treatments to advance AIDS cure research... We can only hope that this case and today’s development represents the beginning of the end of this plague."

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