In a rare victory against AIDS, German scientists say that three years after a unique stem cell transplant was tried on a patient, "cure of HIV has been achieved in this" man. This is the first time anyone has been pronounced cured of the disease. But as New Scientist notes, their radical therapy strategy offers no hope for the tens of millions of people around the world with the lethal virus.
Working with a myeloid leukemia patient who also suffered from AIDS, the investigators first used chemo to attack the cancer and then transplanted bone marrow containing stem cells from a matched donor. But this was no ordinary match. The donor was one of a handful of people whose stem cells carried a specific genetic mutation which provides natural resistance to the virus. Only one in 100 Europeans carry the CCR5 gene.
''Cured' is a strong word. But this is very encouraging,'' said Dr David Scadden, a co-director of the Harvard University Stem Cell Institute. ''From all indications, there was no residual virus. It's as good an outcome as one could hope for.''