U.S. News

World's Only Cured HIV Patient Will Attend Philadelphia, Pa., Conference

June 14, 2012

The "Berlin patient" is sharing his story today at the Prevention and Outreach Summit, a free event Philadelphia FIGHT is sponsoring at the Convention Center. When Timothy Brown was seriously ill in Berlin with acute myeloid leukemia and HIV in 2006, his doctor proposed a bone-marrow transplant and found a donor whose marrow carried a mutation that blocks HIV from infecting human cells using the CCR5 receptor.

Since that first transplant, Brown has remained HIV-free, but the dangerous procedure he underwent remains unviable for most HIV patients. Even so, those suffering another life-threatening disease with HIV might benefit from a collection of 102 cord blood stem-cell samples that carry the mutation, which Lawrence Petz, chief medical officer of California-based StemCyte, hopes can grow to 300 samples. HIV patients needing a stem-cell transfusion could search them for a match, he said, noting that cord blood stem cells work like bone marrow stem cells but are easier to match.

Another approach is genetically modifying cells to have the mutation. Scientists including Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania are working with "zinc finger nucleases" that behave as molecular scissors that can snip out the receptor.

Last week, scientists reported there could be inactive, broken pieces of virus in Brown's blood, the first time a trace has been found since his case became famous. However, some researchers question the findings, proposing that the samples had been contaminated.

"I don't have to take medication and the virus isn't doing anything to my body," said Brown, whose "functional cure" means his immune system is working normally and the virus is not replicating even without treatment. Brown says the question remains open whether or not he has a "sterilizing cure," in which all traces of virus are absent from the body.

Back to other news for June 2012

See Also
No Proof of New HIV Cure, Despite Headlines -- Here's What We Know
The Only Cases of HIV Cure or Remission
Beyond the Berlin Patient: How Researchers Are Now Trying to Cure More HIV-Positive People (Video)
What Would an HIV Cure Mean for You?

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Felix (Florida) Mon., Jul. 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm UTC
As dangerous and complicated the treatment appear to be, I am sure that the world is much closer of finding or making that cure efficient and avalaible to each and every HIV patient
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Comment by: Jeffrey G (Oklahoma City) Thu., Jun. 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm UTC
First reading of this article pulled my eyes more downinto reading it. I read what I can makingas much sense of what it had to say but the number one objective was and has always been to find a cure. I lost some of my friends and also a relative due to AIDS and know very well how it candchange the course in persons lifes
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Comment by: Joe (waterbury.ct) Mon., Jun. 18, 2012 at 8:17 am UTC
I really do hope we can advance this treatment so that the stem cell study can be more universal and someday become a cure:-)
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