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First trial to use umbilical cord stem cells to cure HIV

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The project seeks to be the world’s first clinical trial of its kind by recreating the success of Timothy Ray Brown – the only living person ever to be completely cured of HIV.

The world’s first clinical trial which aims to cure five HIV patients within three years using transplants of blood from umbilical cords is set to start in Spain.

The project seeks to be the world’s first clinical trial of its kind by recreating the success of Timothy Ray Brown – the only living person ever to be completely cured of HIV, known as “the Berlin patient”. Plans for the clinical trial were announced last week at a haematology conference in Valencia by Spain’s National Organisation of Transplants (ONT).

ONT has selected 157 donors that have a genetic mutation which allows them to resist HIV, ‘The Local’ reported. “The Berlin patient”, Brown, was an HIV-positive American living in Berlin in 2006 when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He needed a transplant to treat the cancer, so his doctor decided to use a donor with a certain cellular mutation that is resistant to HIV. After Brown received two stem cell transplants from the donor’s bone marrow, his levels of HIV decreased dramatically.

He is now cancer-free and only traces of the virus can found, but they cannot reproduce. Doctors last year said they successfully performed a similar procedure on a man in Barcelona with lymphoma, but he died of the cancer not long after and they were unable to verify whether the disappearance of the virus was long-term.

To see if Brown’s and the Barcelona patient’s cases can be replicated, the ONT project will look for HIV patients who also have leukemia, lymphoma, or similar illnesses. The treatment will be more similar to that of the Barcelona patient because doctors will transplant umbilical cord blood into the patients, rather than Brown’s stem cell transplant procedure. Doctors hope to begin treatments for the first patient between December and January in Madrid.

PTI