Quick Study: Could Results of Bone Marrow Transplants Hold Secrets To an AIDS Cure?

Two patients treated for cancer with bone marrow transplants no longer have the HIV virus.

Aaron Laxton of St. Louis, Missouri, holds up a sign in front of the White House after a march. Studies on AIDS and HIV were presented this week at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Jul 27, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Buzz about finding a cure for AIDS got a little stronger today when the results of a study were revealed at the International AIDS Conference about two men who may be free of the HIV virus after having bone marrow transplants for cancer. Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston presented the findings on the patients, who had the HIV virus for years, and underwent donor stem cell transplants for lymphoma. Because they received mild chemotherapy both were able to stay on antiretroviral therapy during treatment.

After the transplant, levels of HIV DNA became imperceptible as the donor cells replaced the patients’ lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. A news release from the International AIDS Society reported that researchers believe continuing HIV therapy kept the donor cells from becoming infected the virus as they killed off and replaced immune cells. These cases are somewhat similar to that of Timothy Ray Brown, the only man thought to be cured of AIDS, with one key difference: Brown’s donor cells were known to be impervious to HIV infection, while the two Boston patients’ donor cells were not. The two men are still taking HIV medication.

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