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Around for decades there is no cure for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). But one man whose name is Timothy Ray Brown received a functional cure for HIV back in 2007.
He remains the only human to have been completely overcome the virus, but scientists were not sure which aspect of his treatment was responsible for curing him. Now, a new study has finally discovered this mystery and has eliminated one possible explanation.
Brown made a diagnosis with HIV in 1995. He had been taking anti-HIV drugs, or antiretroviral therapy (ART), for 11 years to control his infection before learning that he had developed leukemia. He was given chemotherapy but it failed, so physicians decided to proceed with a bone marrow transplant. The treatment effectively cured his cancer, but interestingly the virus dropped to invisible levels in his blood and never bounced back, despite Brown ditching ART.
So, what is the Secret?
In scientist’s opinions there are three different factors that has been ended successfully.
- Brown was given a transplant from an individual with rare a mutation that alters one of the receptors HIV uses to get inside white blood cells.
- Brown’s own immune system was destroyed by chemotherapy and radiation to prepare him for the transplant. This process, which is known as conditioning, could have killed all the HIV infected cells in his body.
- The transplanted cells could have attacked Brown’s own cells, which is known as graft versus host disease, and hence destroyed any remaining HIV reservoirs.
So, to discover which aspect could be responsible, a team of researchers from Emory University realized a small study on monkeys. As described in PLOS Pathogens, the scientists removed stem cells from the blood of three rhesus macaques and saved them for later. They then infected these monkeys and three controls with a hybrid virus called SHIV, which is a mix of HIV and the simian version. They then gave the infected monkeys ART just like human patients. “Several months later, the three monkeys that had their stem cells removed underwent whole body irradiation. This killed off the majority of their immune cells, including 99% of the white blood cells that HIV predominantly infects. The monkeys then received transplants of their own stem cells that were removed at the start. After the cells successfully engrafted into their bodies, the researchers stopped ART in all 6 monkeys”, mentioned IFLScience.
This study did not provide a definitive answer, so that scientists may eliminate one possibility. The researchers say they will plan some other researches to find out the mystery.
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