Apparent Immunity Gene ‘Cures’ Bay Area Man Of AIDS CBS San FranciscoSAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — A 45-year-old man now living in the Bay Area may be the first person ever cured of the deadly disease AIDS, the result of the discovery of an apparent HIV immunity gene.
Brown was living in Berlin, Germany back in 2007, dealing with HIV and leukemia, when scientists there gave him a bone marrow stem cell transplant that had astounding results.
Scientists said Brown received stem cells from a donor who was immune to HIV. In fact, about one percent of Caucasians are immune to HIV. Some researchers think the immunity gene goes back to the Great Plague: people who survived the plague passed their immunity down and their heirs have it today.
UCSF’s Dr. Paul Volberding, another pioneering AIDS expert who has studied the disease for all of its 30 years cautioned that while “the Berlin Patient is a fascinating story, it’s not one that can be generalized.”
Both doctors stressed that Brown’s radical procedure may not be applicable to many other people with HIV, because of the difficulty in doing stem cell transplants, and finding the right donor.
“You don’t want to go out and get a bone marrow transplant because transplants themselves carry a real risk of mortality,” Volberding said.
He explained that scientists also still have many unanswered questions involving the success of Brown’s treatment.
“One element of his treatment, and we don’t know which, allowed apparently the virus to be purged from his body,” he observed. “So it’s going to be an interesting, I think productive area to study.”
The institute said it plans to begin clinical trials next year.
There are a lot of unanswered questions in this case, but it does point to the possibility to a cure for others. IF one can receive stem cells from a donor who was immune to HIV and be cured, this opens up some interesting possibilities.
People would need to have DNA tests to see if they carry the immunity or not. If they have the immunity, they would have to be willing to be put in a registry as a possible match for someone suffering with HIV. Also, because transplants themselves carry a real risk of death, the cure might be as bad as the disease.
Interesting, but there's still a lot more work to be done...