Gene therapy could offer AIDS cure

New hope for an AIDS cure: An AIDS patient being treated for leukemia received a bone marrow transplant that may have cured him of the deadly disease.

When American AIDS patient living in Berlin needed the a bone marrow transplant after failing first-line leukemia treatment. Hematologist Dr. Gero Hütter pursued the standard second-line treatment--a bone marrow transplant--but used marrow from a donor who had a natural genetic mutation that made him immune to HIV. The patient is still recovering from leukemia but since getting the transplant, "doctors have not been able to detect the virus in his blood for more than 600 days, despite his having ceased all conventional AIDS medication. Normally when a patient stops taking AIDS drugs, the virus stampedes through the body within weeks, or days," report the Wall Street Journal.

About 1 percent of Europeans harbor a genetic mutation which prevents the molecule CCR5 from appearing on the surface of a cell. Most HIV strains require CCR5 to be present in order to infect the cell, so people who don't carry it are virtually immune to the disease. This case offers new hope that researchers could use gene therapy to re-engineer patients' own genetics to over come a disease that has defeated scientists for decades.

- see the Wall Street Journal article