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Monday, February 22, 2010

We at Familyblendz enjoy bringing you stories like this one. It screams of hope and optimism that comes through research, activism and funding. Following a stem transplant from a donor carring a gene mutuation that provides natural resistance to HIV a 42 year old man who has leukaemia now appears to have no detectable HIV in his blood.

A report on the stem cell transplant in the New England Journal of Medicine says that since it has occurred the patient has not tested positive for HIV, with the Dr. Gero Hutter of Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin in Germany confirming:

“Today, two years after his transplantation, he is still without any signs of HIV disease and without antiretroviral medication.”

Performed in Germany on an American, the transplant was performed not to treat the HIV, but the man’s leukemia, however they did deliberately chose the donor with the naturally occurring gene mutation that confers resistance to HIV. Causing the resistance via a mutation (CCR5 delta32) which cripples the CCR5 receptor on the surface of T cells, that is normally attacked by HIV, this is a mutuation found only in 1 percent to 3 percent of white populations of European descent. Some people only have one copy of CCR5 delta32 which results in them taking longer to get sick or develop AIDS if infected with HIV. If they however have two (a copy from each parent) then they may not become infected at all.

The patient in this case was given a transplant with two copies of CCR5 delta32 and whilst his findings are very promising, the reality according to Dr. Jay Levy, a professor at the University of California San Francisco, is that it won’t help the majority as the treatment is too extreme to be used as a routine treatment. He also believes that the transplant won’t have completely cured the patient as it is likely the HIV may infect other cells and resurface at a later time. Although this may be true, it is important to note that the patient was also found to be infected with low levels of a type of HIV known as X4 that does not require the CCR5 receptor before the surgery , but these have shown no sign of developing.

Admitting they had no real explanation for what has happened, Hutter said the “… finding is very surprising.”, however he has agreed with other researchers that it shouldn’t be used to treat HIV alone, with Levy suggesting “A more logical — and potentially safer — approach would be to develop some type of CCR5-disabling gene therapy or treatment that could be directly injected into the body”.

We pass this stuff on to you all to further help you understand the real fight. Its not in talking or even blogging, solely, yet, Familyblendz and other organizations like ours are better equipped to address the real concerns and fears of the masses by keeping only the relevant information in the mainstream.

At the end of the day, whether this patient shows signs of HIV resurfacing today or next year, unless you are currently living with this infection, none of us may ever truly know the benefit he has gained TODAY alone just by knowing that as of right now...there is no detection. Lets support or brothers and sisters who are out there on the frontlines keeping us current.