The transplantation of special stem cells from umbilical cord blood has very likely cured a New York patient of both her leukemia and her HIV disease. This is reported by US scientists in the journal Cell. It would be the first successful treatment of a non-white woman.
So far, three cases of a cure from HIV have been known: The corresponding patients in Berlin, London and Düsseldorf all received a special stem cell transplant due to a parallel cancer. Those stem cells had a specific gene mutation called CCR5Δ32. This mutation ensures that there is no docking site for HIV on the immune cells. Without this, the virus cannot find a portal of entry and cannot infect the cells, which makes carriers of the mutation almost resistant to the pathogen. Mutation is extremely rare According to lead author Yvonne Bryson, these carriers only include about one percent of the white population, in other groups they are mutation even rarer. In a stem cell transplant, however, it is crucial that the donor and recipient match as closely as possible, Bryson explained in a press conference on the study. “It is extremely rare for people of different skin color or ethnicities to find a sufficiently matched, unrelated adult donor.” The team therefore decided to transplant the non-white patient with stem cells with the rare mutation from umbilical cord blood. Such cells, which come from voluntary donations and are collected in the appropriate blood banks, are still very immature, which prevents the otherwise frequent rejection reactions.Transplantation took place in 2017The transplantation took place in 2017 – in an intervention that is not like a surgical but rather like a blood transfusion that takes place after chemotherapy and radiation, explained the doctor Jingmei Hsu. In fact, both the HIV infection and the patient’s leukemia were successfully contained. 37 months after the procedure, the antiviral HIV medication could be stopped. “Today the patient is doing very well, she travels, visits her family and enjoys her life,” said Hsu. Healing will only be certain in a few years. This security would only come in the next few years. Also, due to the many risks, such a stem cell transplant is only an option as part of the treatment of other life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Researchers recommend setting up blood banks. They advocate establishing cord blood banks across the board, encouraging donors, and then testing the donated blood for the CCR5Δ32 mutation.