Timothy Ray Brown is being hailed by the global medical community as the first HIV-positive person to ever be successfully cured of the disease.
A potential HIV vaccine has been big news lately, with one research group ready to take their vaccine into human clinical trials, but this medical miracle in particular isn’t the result of a vaccine. Instead, a stem cell bone marrow transplant is being heralded for Brown beating HIV.
Brown’s amazing progress continues to be monitored by doctors at San Francisco General Hospital and at the University of California at San Francisco medical center.
“I’m cured of HIV. I had HIV but I don’t anymore,” he said, using words that many in the scientific community are cautiously clinging to.
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. Jay Levy, who co-discovered the HIV virus and is one of the most respected AIDS researchers in the world, said this case opens the door to the field of “cure research,” which is now gaining more attention.
“If you’re able to take the white cells from someone and manipulate them so they’re no longer infected, or infectable, no longer infectable by HIV, and those white cells become the whole immune system of that individual, you’ve got essentially a functional cure,” he explained.
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.
Scientists and the medical community at large have been reluctant to use the word “cure” to describe HIV treatment in the past, but are relenting in Brown’s case. Clinical trials to duplicate the stem cell cure that relieved Brown of HIV are set to begin next year.
The entire article over at CBS is extremely fascinating and well worth a bit of your time. I highly recommend giving it a read.