A group of U.S. researchers have used a new method of stem cell transplantation that they hope could be given to dozens of people each year.
The woman, who is mixed race, is the third person to be cured of HIV. Scientists announced Tuesday that the method, which involves the use of umbilical cord blood, could lead to the cure of more racially diverse people than previously thought.
The supply of cord blood is greater than that of adult stem cells, which are typically used in bone marrow transplants, and cord blood also does not need to be as closely matched to the patient. Most donors are white, which means a partial match could cure dozens of people with both cancer and HIV in the United States each year, The New York Times reported.
The cured woman also had leukemia, and she received cord blood to treat it, which came from a partial match donor. The usual practice is to find a bone marrow donor of similar race and ethnicity to the patient. The woman also received blood from a close relative to temporarily boost her body’s immune system while the transplant took hold.
Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that “the fact that she’s mixed race and she’s a woman, that’s really important scientifically and really important in terms of impact on the community,” The New York Times reported.
Women make up the majority of HIV cases worldwide, but represent only 11 percent of participants in cure trials. The disease is thought to develop differently in men and women.
But Dr. Deeks added that he did not believe the new treatment would become widely used. “These are stories of inspiration in the field and maybe the roadmap,” he said.
Nearly 38 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and about 73 percent of them are receiving treatment, often via powerful antiretroviral drugs that can control the virus. Most of them cannot undergo a bone marrow transplant because the procedure is invasive and risky.