Breaking News: Can a Stem Cell Transplant Cure HIV?


Adult human breast stem cells (red) are found in ductal regions. Lineage-restricted progenitor cell types (green) reside outside

Scientists based at a medical center in Berlin have accomplished something extraordinary: they have used stem cells to prevent viruses to grow in a patient infected with HIV. This patient had been taking antiviral drugs but discontinued them for the study. Since this patient had been on chemotherapy, the stem cell "transplant" was given to boost his immune system.

Here's the basic idea: A key part of our immune system is comprised of T cells. Some of these immune cells have receptors on their surface that bind to the HIV virus. Without these receptors, the virus cannot enter the immune cell - preventing replication. Think of the classical lock and key model. Infection occurs if both the key (the virus) and the lock (receptor) work properly. Remove or destroy the lock, and the key is useless - so no infection occurs.

Some patients have a natural mutation of these receptors ("CCR5delta32/delta32") that is defective and they are resistant to HIV infection. Stem cells taken from these HIV-resistant patients were transplanted into the immunocompromised patient in Berlin. The result was startling: the transplanted stem cells not only were found systemically (throughout the body), but were found in the patient's gut. This patient has been virus-free for more than two years.

According to the authors:

"...our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient."

Can this stunning result in one patient benefit the millions of immunocompromised HIV patients?

These studies were reported in The Huffington Post and published in the peer-reviewed journal Blood.

Photo source:

Adult human breast stem cells (red) are found in ductal regions. Lineage-restricted progenitor cell types (green) reside outside
ducts in lobules. (JCB 177(1) TOC2)

This image is available to the public to copy, distribute, or display under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Reference: Villadsen et al. (2007) J. Cell Biol. 177:87-101.
Published on: April 9, 2007.
Doi: 10.1083/jcb.200611114.

Read the full article at:

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