Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for the treatment HIV infection

March 16, 2023 | Histopathology

In the past, having an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was considered incurable. The virus tends to hibernate in the genome of infected cells for extended periods of time, making it unreachable for both the immune system and antiviral drugs.

Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation was the only medical intervention that has cured two people infected with HIV. However, scientists from Hamburg and Cologne, have been able to identify a recent case of HIV infection, a 53-year-old man dubbed as the “Düsseldorf patient”, that has been cured with the same procedure.  After ten years, this patient’s successful healing process is comprehensively characterized virologically and immunologically. 

The patient received a stem cell transplant for a blood cancer at the University Hospital Düsseldorf. As what was conducted on the first two patients "Berlin" and "London", the patient obtained stem cells from a healthy donor whose genome held a mutation in the gene for HIV-1 co-receptor CCR5. This specific mutation makes it impossible for the majority of the HI viruses to enter their target cells, the human CD4+ T-lymphocytes.

Odoo text and image block
Odoo text and image block

For almost 10 years following the transplantation, the patient was scrupulously monitored through a variety of sensitive techniques. The researchers examined the patient’s blood and tissue samples while closely keeping track of immune responses to HIV and the continued presence or replication of the virus. Over the entire course of the study, no replication of the virus or antibodies, or reactive immune cells against HIV have been perceived. Four years ago, the antiviral therapy was discontinued and the patient was declared cured by the international research consortium.

Prof. Julian Schulze zur Wiesch, researcher at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, said that in principle, HIV can be cured. Findings of the study can push forward future research especially for people infected with HIV for whom stem cell transplantation is not considered to be an option.

Back To Top
We are fully compliant with the GDPR laws. We promise to safeguard your data and protect your privacy rights.