In a First, Woman Cured Of HIV Using Novel Stem Cell Treatment

By: | February 17th, 2022

The HIV virus (yellow) infecting a human cell.( Image courtesy: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash)

A woman has been cured of H.I.V., making her first woman to ever be cured of HIV. The previous three persons cured of HIV were all men.

Because the woman received the treatment at the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, scientists are calling her “New York patient”.

The patient, a woman of mixed race was also a cancer patient. She received a treatment using umbilical cord blood, which is more readily available than the adult stem cells used in bone marrow transplants.  While bone marrow needs to be matched closely with the recipient, umbilical cord stem cells do not need to be matched as closely.

The treatment she received to combat both the diseases at once is considered highly risky. It can often result in the death of the patient. So, it is considered ‘unethical’ to use it on people who do not have a late-stage cancer diagnosis.

Around 50 people a year in the US could benefit from the procedure every year

“We estimate that there are approximately 50 patients per year in the US who could benefit from this procedure,” said Dr. Koen van Besien, one of the doctors involved in the treatment.

“The ability to use partially matched umbilical cord blood grafts greatly increases the likelihood of finding suitable donors for such patients.”

The woman was diagnosed with HIV in 2013 and leukemia in 2017 which made her a potential candidate for this treatment. She received the treatment four years ago. Her cancer has gone into remission and her HIV treatment was also discontinued last winter and the virus has not resurged in her.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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