Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HIV cured with stem cell transplant

What reports seem not to be emphasizing is that the "cure" was the outcome of an adult stem cell transplant, not an embryonic stem cell transplant.  The cure is the result of a bone marrow transplant, a relatively common and noncontroversial transplant of marrow stem cells from one person to another.  The cure apparently resulted when marrow containing a rare mutation called CCR5 delta32, occurring in about 1-3 people in 100, was transplanted in an HIV patient suffering from leukemia.  This rare mutation appears to prevent the HIV virus from infecting the newly transplanted immune system cells.

It has long been my belief that by the time we understand cell development well enough to be able to use embryonic stem cells for therapy, we will understand it well enough to use more common adults stem cells and even differentiated tissue.  I have no moral objections to investigating either embryonic or adult cells for therapy, and I think the angst expressed by both sides of the debate is misplaced.

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