Two birds with one stone: Leukemia treatment a possible AIDS cure
An estimated 448,871 people in the United States are currently living with AIDS, the deadly viral disease that infects the immune system directly and eventually, despite many advances in treatment in recent years, confers death upon those inflicted with it. Physicians in Germany, however, might have made a breakthrough in finding a potential cure for the disease earlier this month. When blood cancer specialists Gero Huetter and Eckhard Thiel gave a bone marrow transplant to a US cancer patient to treat him for leukemia, the treatment seemed also to have "functionally cured" the patient of his HIV/AIDS disease.
Building off studies done in the 1990s that found that some people are resistant to HIV/AIDS, the specialists decided to give their patient bone marrow from an HIV resistant donor. Once the patient's blood supply was replenished, his blood cells would be resistant to the HIV virus.
They owed their resistance to a mutation in the gene that makes the molecular "door handle" by which HIV/AIDS gains access to cells. Called CCR5, the protein door handle was misshapen in the immune individuals, locking HIV/AIDS out of their white blood cells, the New Scientist report noted.
An estimated 1% of Europeans probably carry the CCR5 mutation, which is recessive and thus only shows up in children of parents who both have the mutation. Using bone marrow from donors with this mutation to treat AIDS might hold promise for some patients in the future.
The specialists who treated this patient are optimistic about the results of their "experiment" but don't know how feasable it will be as a wide spread treatment.
But they warn that an all-out cure for the millions of HIV/AIDS patients worldwide is still a long way off.
Still, for millions of AIDS victims around the world, this breakthrough will hopefully provide them with hope that a potential cure is on the way.