November 7, 2008

Bone-Marrow Transplant Promising for AIDS

A German doctor expressed surprise that an AIDS patient shows no sign of the fatal virus after receiving a bone-marrow transplant for leukemia.

The patient, an American living in Berlin, is recovering from the leukemia therapy. Doctors said they have not been able to detect the virus in his blood in more than 600 days, even though he stopped stopped taking conventional AIDS medications, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

"I was very surprised," said the Dr. Gero Hutter.

The breakthrough may lie in Hutter's procedure of replacing the patient's bone marrow cells with those from a donor with a naturally occurring genetic mutation rendering, his cells immune to almost all strains of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the Journal said.

While warning that the German case could be a stroke of luck, Nobel prize winner David Baltimore called it "a very good sign" and a virtual "proof of principle" for gene-therapy approaches. Baltimore, who won the prize for his research on tumor viruses, and a University of California-Los Angeles colleague developed a gene therapy strategy against HIV that works in a similar way to the Berlin method.