Transplanted bone marrow cells may be immune to HIV
Two HIV-positive men received bone-marrow transplants at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, after which researchers could detect no trace of the virus among the new cells. This data gives the study's authors valuable information suggesting that new immune system cells may be protected from HIV.
Physicians performed the procedures two and four years ago and there is currently still no infection in the patients' blood. In addition, the levels of HIV antibodies decreased in both men.
Bone marrow transplants replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy stem cells, according to the National Institutes of Health. The procedure is typically performed when a patient has certain cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma, has a disease that affects bone marrow cells or had chemotherapy.
When it comes to replacing HIV infected cells, doctors were astounded.
"We expected HIV to vanish from the patients' plasma, but it is surprising that we can't find any traces of HIV in their cells," said Timothy Henrich, M.D., physician-researcher at BWH. "The next step is to determine if there are any traces of HIV in their tissue."
These results prompted researchers to begin observing how the tissue of an HIV-affected individual is impacted after a bone marrow transplant. Such insight may give healthcare providers the information necessary to take the next step toward curing HIV, which currently affects more than one million Americans, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.