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25 Nov 2014 19 Comments

HIV Breakthrough: Umbilical cord blood transplants used in treatment of AIDS

In Barcelona, the Spanish doctors believe that they have found a cure for AIDS affected patients through blood transplants from umbilical cord of individuals having genetic resistance to HIV.

Five years ago, the medical professionals from Spain treated a 37 year old HIV affected patient from Barcelona who was cured of the diseases within 3 months after receiving umbilical cord blood transplant. Unfortunately, he passed away three years later by lymphoma cancer. However, the doctors from Spanish Hematology and Hemotherapy Society (SEHH) and National Transplant Organization (ONT) have jointly launched a project to research and eliminate HIV virus in patients who are also affected with blood or bone marrow cancer through cord blood stem cell transplants.

As per the treatment method, the HIV infected patient with blood related cancers can be treated with umbilical cord stem cells that carry resistance mutation to HIV virus. The high resistance to HIV is caused by CCR5 Delta 35 mutation that affects the white blood cells in an estimated 1% human population. Before the transplant, the patient’s blood cells will be destroyed with chemotherapy. By incorporating the resistance mutation, the HIV virus will no longer be able to attach itself to the cells.

Prior to the Barcelona patient, the Spanish doctors attempted the technique in a HIV patient, Timothy Brown who developed Leukemia before receiving treatment in Berlin. He was treated with a donor bone marrow cells that carried resistance mutation to the HIV virus. When the doctors planned the same for the Barcelona patient, they could not find a suitable bone marrow donor which led to another promising solution: umbilical cord blood. On an interview to ‘The Local’, the director of Haematopoietic Transplant Programme at the Catalan Oncology Institute in Barcelona, Rafael Duarte said, “We suggested a transplant of blood from an umbilical cord but from someone who had the mutation because we knew from 'the Berlin patient' that as well as causing the cancer, we could also eradicate HIV."

Thus, the medical team used the umbilical cord stem cells from a donor to speed up the regeneration process and within 11 days, the patient recovered. Three months later, the patient was found to be free of HIV virus in his body. Although, the patient passed away after 3 years, this process encouraged the researchers to begin a new project – world’s first clinical trials using umbilical cord blood transplants to treat HIV infected cancer patients. This therapy can also help the medical world to speculate a cure for HIV infected patients. This clinical trial is set to begin by March 2015.



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