A new report has surfaced that shows a promising cure for HIV. According to the report, a group of American researchers may have cured HIV in a woman for the first time.
The team reportedly used successes and failures from the past to drive the treatment of the patient forward. This allowed them to use a stem cell transplant system that could even be utilized to treat HIV in other people later down the road.
Scientists may have found a cure for HIV using stem cells
It’s an intriguing discovery. However, it isn’t the first time that we’ve seen similar techniques used to treat HIV. Previously scientists have used stem cell transplants to possibly cure at least one other person of the disease. The records of that case were made public in 2008 and went on to possibly cure HIV in two other men. This, however, is the first time that we’ve seen such results in a woman.
The process acts as a therapeutic replacement for the individual’s immune system. Basically, scientists take stem cells and slowly transplant them into the patient. The transplanted cells contain a rare genetic abnormality that grants the cells that HIV targets a natural resistance to the virus. Researchers also reportedly know of two women whose body’s have managed to kill the virus naturally, as well (via NBC News).
However, it has not always been a success story. Scientists also used the same transplant technique to try to treat two other patients. However, neither patient experienced the same possible curing as the others.
The risks of finding success
Unfortunately, the process is too risky to use on just any patient. For the moment experts say that it is unethical to try to attempt a cure for HIV using a stem cell transplant in anyone not already facing a potentially fatal cancer. The process is toxic and can even be fatal to people undergoing it. This is because stem cell transplants essentially replace one person’s immune system with that of another. As such, it’s a very risky treatment. All the patients treated with the method so far have been facing cancers with an increased risk of fatality.
As such, experts like Dr. Deborah Persaud cautioned that this is not a feasible strategy to use as a cure for HIV. At least, not for the general population that may be struggling with the disease. Instead, it is only useful in those that are already living with HIV and facing deadly cancers. Still, having these minor successes is important, another expert says.
Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told NBC News that these triumphs bring hope that we will find a cure for HIV down the line. Dieffenbach says it is important to have these successes along the way to finding a better option.