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Could a bone marrow transplant be a cure to HIV? Researchers are investigating that very question. Two men, who have HIV and are taking antiretroviral medications, went through a bone marrow transplant and now doctors can’t find a trace HIV in their cells.
HIV Cells Vanish
Researchers have been looking for a cure to HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years, ever since the disease burst onto the medical scene in the 80s.
“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 co-resarcher Dr. Timothy Henrich, also of BWH and Harvard. “The next step is to determine if there are any traces of HIV in their tissue.”
This new finding could give researchers a new starting point.
“This gives us some important information,” one of the researchers Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital and Harvard Medical school said in a press release. “It suggests that under the cover of antiretroviral therapy, the cells that repopulated the patient’s immune system appear to be protected from becoming re-infected with HIV.”
Results Still Unclear
Both patients had a bone marrow transplant years ago. Essentially, the HIV-free cells from the donor worked their way into the patients DNA and, so far, it appears to have wiped out the HIV cells.
While both men have continued their HIV medications, researchers believe this discovery could prove significant.
Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Washington Post, “Today might be considered a day when the research agenda moves from basic science and the lab into the clinic,” adding that “it is an absolutely critical advancement.”
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston say they will continue the research.