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Stem-cell transplants may cure HIV

Stem cells deal a vicious blow to HIV: image from singularityHUB

At the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, two men with HIV may have been cured after they received stem-cell transplants to treat the blood cancer lymphoma, their doctors announced.

One of them received stem-cell transplants to replace his blood-cell-producing bone marrow about three years ago, and the other five years ago. Last July, doctors announced that the two men appeared to be living without detectable levels of HIV in their blood, but they were still taking antiretroviral medications at that time.

Timothy Henrich, an HIV specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, who helped to treat the men, says that they have now stopped their antiretroviral treatments with no ill effects. One has been off medication for 15 weeks and the other for seven. Neither has any trace of HIV DNA or RNA in his blood, Henrich says.

If the men stay healthy, they would be the third and fourth patients ever to be cured of HIV.

Everyone with HIV could benefit from this work, researchers say, because it could yield valuable information about how to eliminate the HIV reservoir. But scientists are still a long way off from a viable cure option for most patients. Nevertheless, every step counts, and these cases can teach researchers important lessons for treating HIV.

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