An image of a red cell.

Breaking News: First Person to be Cured of HIV Using Cord Blood Stem Cells

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a chronic immune system disease that hinders the body’s ability to fight infection. It’s among the most serious public health conditions, affecting about 39 million people worldwide as of 2022.

Research reveals the discovery of a possible HIV cure — stem cells from umbilical cord blood. A female patient was recently deemed cured of HIV after undergoing this treatment. Cord blood cells offer the potential to treat more people of diverse ethnic backgrounds due to less stringent human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matching requirements and less risk of post-transplant complications.

Two male patients were previously treated for HIV using stem cells from bone marrow. However, they experienced severe side effects, including extreme weight loss, multiple infections, and even hearing loss. Cord blood-derived stem cells could be a safer and less invasive alternative to bone marrow transplantation.

Woman Cured From HIV Using Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant

A middle-aged, mixed-race woman from New York received a transplant of stem cells from banked umbilical cord blood. The patient was also fighting leukemia.

As of March 2023, the woman has been HIV-free since 2017 and is considered in long-term remission with no drugs. This potentially makes her the first woman to be cured of HIV. Researchers from the study said that the women’s racial background and sex marked a significant step in developing a cure for this disease.

Contrary to the standard practice of finding a bone marrow donor of similar ethnicity and race, the cord blood cells came from a partially matched donor. The woman was also given blood from a close relative to provide temporary immune defense during the transplant.

A challenge of transplanting stem cells from cord blood is that they take time to engraft into the body. By infusing the cord blood cells with stem cells from the patient’s relative, the cells engrafted within only two weeks of the transplant.

How Do Cord Blood Stem Cells Differ From Bone Marrow Stem Cells?

Cord blood stem cells are more widely available than those used in bone marrow transplants. Additionally, the blood doesn’t need to be as closely matched to the recipient as the marrow.

Furthermore, a bone marrow transplant is riskier and more invasive. Doctors typically only perform this treatment when all other options have been exhausted. Some potential risks of bone marrow transplants include:

  • Infection
  • Organ damage
  • Cataracts
  • Infertility
  • Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)

Research also suggests that cord blood stem cells can create more new cells than those from bone marrow.

An image of a cell with words that highlights the advantages of cord blood stem cells.

3 People Cured of HIV

To date, three patients have been cured of HIV using stem cells. Two male patients were treated with bone marrow-derived stem cells, and one female patient was treated with umbilical cord blood stem cells.

All three patients received stem cells that carried the delta32 mutation that blocks HIV infection. This mutation has been identified in only about 20,000 donors, primarily of Northern European descent.

The limited scope of this mutation, in turn, limits the individuals that could benefit from stem cells from bone marrow, which requires 6/6 (100%) HLA matching. The female patient of mixed race benefited from stem cells collected from cord blood, which only requires 4/6 (67%) matching.

A table showing three different patient profiles.

Stem Cell Transplant Treatment and Outcomes

All three patients were diagnosed with a form of cancer and HIV. In each case, the intent was to treat the cancer and, secondarily, the HIV.

The first two patients were matches for bone marrow donors with the delta32 mutation. Subsequently, they were treated with stem cells from these donor matches. The third patient received cord blood-derived stem cells with the delta32 mutation and peripheral blood from a close relative to bridge the stem cell engrafting period.

The first patient required two doses of stem cells to treat leukemia, which ultimately returned in 2019 and led to his death in 2020. The second and third patients were successfully treated for lymphoma and leukemia. After discontinuation of anti-retroviral therapy, all three patients were considered to be cured after testing demonstrated that they were HIV-free.

A table depicting stages of HIV treatment, providing a comprehensive overview of the treatment process for HIV patients.

The two male patients who received bone marrow transplants experienced major side effects. Both contracted GVHD, a condition where the donor’s cells attack the recipient’s body. The first patient nearly died, almost went blind, and required six years of intensive therapy to recover from temporary paralysis. The second patient lost close to 70 pounds, developed hearing loss, and survived multiple infections.

In comparison, the woman was out of the hospital 17 days after her transplant with no reported complications. Her physician believes that the cord blood, coupled with the patient’s relative’s cells, may have spared her of the severe side effects of a bone marrow transplant.

Two key benefits of obtaining stem cells from cord blood compared to bone marrow are:

  • Less stringent requirements for HLA matching.
  • Reduced risk of GVHD.

Both advantages contributed to the matching of stem cells to a patient of mixed race and her successful outcome.

Prepare for the Future With Stem Cell Storage

More case studies are pointing to the success of stem cells as an HIV virus cure. At Americord®, we extract, process, and store stem cells from cord blood, cord tissue, and placental tissue through our secure private bank.

You can have peace of mind knowing these cells are available for you and your family should any medical needs arise one day. Over 80 medical conditions can be treated with hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood have served a range of FDA-approved treatments, including:

  • Leukemias
  • Lymphomas
  • Bone marrow cancers
  • Leukodystrophy disorders
  • Neutropenia
  • Inherited red cell and platelet abnormalities
  • Myeloproliferative disorders
  • Phagocyte disorders

Choose Americord® as your stem cell storage provider. If you’d like to learn more about banking your baby’s cord blood and its incredible stem cells, contact us or give us a call at 866-503-6005.

The views, statements, and pricing expressed are deemed reliable as of the published date. Articles may not reflect current pricing, offerings, or recent innovations.