A huge story with implications that aren't all immediately clear is emerging in Berlin this week: doctors treating an HIV-infected with leukemia believe they have, in a roundabout way, cured his HIV infection via a stem cell transplant containing cells that happened to be impervious to HIV infection. And while the story by no means indicates that a cure for HIV has been discovered, the unexpected finding certainly opens the door to further review and great optimism in a frustrating battle that has now spanned several decades.
The "Berlin patient," an American citizen living in Berlin, received a stem cell transplant back in 2007 as a treatment for his leukemia. Before the transplant he received chemotherapy treatment and total body irradiation that eradicated most of his immune cells, and received further immunosuppressive drugs to prevent his body from rejecting the stem cells.
But these were no ordinary stem cells – a mutation found in just one percent of Caucasians in northern and western Europe causes CD4 cells to lack the CCR5 receptor, a receptor necessary for early-stage HIV to infect CD4 immune system cells. People with this mutation are more or less immune to HIV infection.
Those anti-HIV stem cells took root in the Berlin patient and repopulated there. At the same time, the host CD4 cells that hadn't been destroyed in chemotherapy and radiation completely disappeared. After 38 months, doctors still couldn't find HIV infection in the Berlin patient – in other words, it seems by all measures that his HIV has been cured.
Now, his road to recovery from HIV was excruciating and by no means should this single case of recovery be declared a cure. But it does provide a lot of hope and perhaps new mechanisms for deterring the spread of HIV in infected patients and perhaps, someday, a means to defeat the disease in vivo through gene therapy or transplants. More than anything, it defies the idea that HIV is incurable.
That's not the only stem cell news coming out of Berlin this week. Researchers there have also grown the world's first hair follicle from stem cells, creating a potential cure for baldness. We don't mean to cheapen the HIV breakthrough by lumping it in with something so cosmetic as a cure for male pattern baldness, but rather to show just how much promise this branch of scientific research likely still holds. If researchers can find potential cures for both a life-threatening disease and a widespread condition affecting millions around the world in the same vein of science in the same week, imagine what other potentially life-changing discoveries may be hiding in stem cell science.
Such irresponsible reporting. Yes, stem cells were involved. But it was a bone marrow transplant from an adult donor that cured the HIV. Deceptive headlines like this are meant only to sell people on the barbaric practice of embryonic stem cell research, which had NOTHING to do with this case.
They can make stem cells other ways, you know? Like in a petri dish or the newly discovered artificial uterus.
devout: This pop-sci article, and the article they linked to made ZERO mention of embryonic stem cells. In fact, the linked article says the stem cells came from the bone marrow transplant he received from another person NOT a fetus/embryo.
Of course i won't stoop to your level and argue back about embryonic stem cells, since it had nothing to do with this article.
and .45 is absolutely correct, embryos are not the only way of getting stem cells.
This isn't all that new. The method might be new but it has been known for awhile that a very small percentage of European population are immune to HIV. A person with leukemia a couple of years ago was cured by using bone marrow transplant from one of those people.
@Devout: This story is general, and the headline is perfectly accurate.
Perhaps a personal bias is leading you to fabricate a conspiracy where rudimentary journalism may be the worst offence. And I use 'offence' loosely. This is the blog of a mainstream science mag- several steps of formality down from an academic journal.
Thanks for the interesting story Clay!
Most cancer hospitals have changed terminology from "bone marrow transplant" to the more generalized "stem cell transplant" in anticipation of therapies with different types of stem cells. The term "stem cells" makes the therapy sound very advanced, but it is still just a bone marrow transplant (which is good news because it is not that complicated to perform).
The interesting news here is that the CCR5 negative donor cells completely replaced the patient's old immune cells, so there was nowhere left for HIV to grow.
So maybe I'm not reading this right but this person started out with both HIV and leukemia? Man that's rough. I'm too lazy to actually follow the link to the original article but it seems the leukemia treatment just happened to also treat the HIV, so how is the leukemia now?
Also, why the hell is the government having such a hard time with stem cell research decisions? Sure it *might* be wrong to harvest the cells from aborted fetuses, but it's already been mentioned that isn't the only way stem cells are obtained. Just another example of how the government is run by reactionary lemmings pandering to popular outrage.
HIV destroys your immune system to the point where you acquire AIDS. which is complete destruction of your immune system. You are then susceptible to death from anything as mundane as the common cold.
One user posted that it was not the work of stem cells but rather a bone marrow transplant that did the trick. You should know that bone marrow has many stem cells which give rise to things like blood, white blood cells, and many other types of tissue.
So, Devout.. your quick to judge contradiction of the story is false and i would further state that the article did not say the stem cells were embryonic. I would really consider looking into the facts a little but more deeply before making a statement like yours.
Your ignorance eludes me... that is all
One, you are thinking of two separate cases. Two The word embryo was never used. Three if you want to live in the dark ages go move to Israel or Afghanistan or some other middle-eastern country and leave the rest of us alone and stop dragging the rest of us down because of your own mental illnesses.
Why is it that every time an article contains the word "stem" these assholes show up who want to shit all over everybody.
"They're killing babies so you can live".
No. They are not.
Jesus Christ, this is a scientific news site. Why are you even here? So you can troll? Well I think I'm gonna head over to jesus.com and troll there as I talk about how stem cells can save lives and put an end to needless suffering. It will "cause the blind to see and the lame to walk again".
On a different note: STEM CELLS ROCK!
STEM CELL FOR PRESIDENT!
@Devout, you shouldn't comment here. In fact, you should probably stop voicing your opinion in general.
This is a science column, so it would be awesome if you kept your closed minded right wing god fearing elitist thoughts to yourself.
EMBRYONIC STEM CELL CEREAL - Now with flax!
It boggles my mind why the issue of stem cells isent being studyed by every med student out there. This works ! And we are just scraching the surfus, we are just finding out what we can cure. Stem cells are the future of medical science. And damn our goverment for turning there backs on this. Shame on you.
VIVA LA STEM CELLS.
First, most of this article is a semantic change on the process used in 2007 to transfer immunity (not cure) HIV in Germany. The article makes it appear as if only stem cells were transfered, rather than a wholesale transfer of bone marrow - which included the aforesaid adult stem cells.
Second, if you are looking for something to be offended about, it is not the use of adult stem cells, but the means by which this immunity to HIV was found (a small percentage of high risk people - ie promiscuious homosexual males - never came down with the sickness).
Third, this transfer of immunity comes with a sentence almost as deadly as aids. Bone marrow recipients spend a lifetime on immuno-supressive medicines - and what would the HIV do again, oh yes!, supress the immune system. Add in the risk of graft.v.host, the surgery, recovery infections, etc - and you are still better off as an HIV sufferer to stay on your current meds.
Simmah dow now... I think Devout has learned his lesson. Don't take me the wrong way though, he deserved a proper bashing. At this point, let's consider him thoroughly bashed and move on. lol
As much as I'd like to bash on Devout more on his complete ignorance on stem cells alias is right, we should stop bashing him and get on with the good not evil comments.
Lol I love that everyone bashed that guy but maybe he/she just needs educated. Maybe they are confused about the science. That is something that can be fixed. Maybe we could find some articles for them to read up on.
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I think it's interesting that the patient, after being observably cured of HIV, developed a "neurological condition." I wonder if that is at all related, or this individual is simply horrifically unlucky with medical conditions.
I'm just amazed that some people are immune to HIV...
I would like to quote Devout:
"Such irresponsible reporting. Yes, stem cells were involved. But it was a bone marrow transplant from an adult donor that cured the HIV. Deceptive headlines like this are meant only to sell people on the barbaric practice of embryonic stem cell research, which had NOTHING to do with this case."
Promoting the "barbaric practice of embryonic stem cell research" is a little subjective don't you think? One could argue that these stem cell embryos are non-sentient, therefore it is as if they are dead. Imagine it: if there is no God, and death is a natural process as science seemingly points, then it would be true in saying that the embryos are literally not alive, because they are not aware of anything but nothingness. Which is a difficult environment to describe anyways. Perhaps a dreamless sleep. Regardless, stem cells promote sentient, concious life for humans. I believe we are not killing anything in the process of obtaining these cells.
This discovery will lead too many disastrous things. If they convert the way of making people. it will lead to complete different world. You could mate anything with it. For example a man that's made only for serving or like a humanoid basically a robot.
I'm patiently waiting to see what the comments are going to be about that statement. I think Devout's going to get a break.
@duffong, yeah, i'm speechless here...
Jesus, where did it say ANYTHING about changing the way people are made? They are talking about using stem cells to cure disease, not to clone. Do you actually read the articles or just guess that you know enough about them by reading the headline?