Nuno R. B. Martins, PhD

After 12 years, for the second time, an HIV-positive patient has entered long-term remission. The cure was discovered by chance in a eureka moment for modern medicine. The goal was to treat cancer in HIV+ patients. Patients were then administered with bone marrow transplants from donors with mutations in cell surface protein CCR5, and astonishingly both got cured of HIV. HIV uses CCR5 to enter immune cells and the virus cannot latch onto a mutated version of the protein, which halts its spread. Once the genetic variation to the immune system was inserted the “London patient”, he has become the second to remain virus-free for over a year, similarly to Timothy Ray Brown (cured in the late 2000s).

Some Scientists have already proposed less invasive uses of the genetic mutation in CCR5, such as gene-therapy approaches that knock out the protein on immune cells or even predecessor stem cells. Other scientists are investigating viral delivery systems that could hunt and delete CCR5 receptors. New stem cell research might even allow HIV-resistant donors to offer resistant stem cells to any patient.

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