modern medicine

Is Timothy Ray Brown The First Man To Be Cured Of HIV By Stem Cells?

Statistics about how young gays are enjoying condom-free sex and opening themselves up to HIV transmission might (one day) no longer usher in feelings of complete dread: researchers claim they cured 44-year-old Timothy Ray Brown of HIV by using a stem cell treatment.

Back in 2007 a then-unidentified Brown underwent treatment for leukemia that used HIV-resistant stem cells from a bone marrow donor, whose own genes lacked the “docking station” HIV cells require to spread. (This time last year we began hearing about the true possibilities of the treatment.)

From there on out, Brown stopped taking HIV medications — and shocked his doctors by remaining HIV-negative (and maintaining normal T-cell counts) three-and-a-half years after ending his leukemia treatment. Dubbed the “Berlin Patient,” Brown has come forward as the miracle patient whose “HIV remained undetectable by both viral load testing (RNA) and tests for viral DNA within cells, and HIV antibody levels declined to the point that the patient has no antibody reactivity to HIV core antibodies, and only very low levels of antibodies to the HIV envelope proteins,” reports AIDSMap.

Does this mean we’ve solved the HIV epidemic? Hardly. AIDSMeds notes:

On the day of his transplant, he discontinued his antiretrovirals. About 13 months after receiving the transplant, the patient’s leukemia relapsed yet again. A second round of conditioning, followed by another transplant with stem cells with the CCR5 delta-32 deletion, was performed. This led to a complete remission of the cancer. At no point during the initial 20-month follow-up period did the Berlin Patient’s HIV rebound, as highlighted during the initial CROI presentation and in a detailed case report published in a February 2009 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

However, uncertainty remained over whether a bona fide cure for HIV infection had been achieved in this patient. First, it was assumed that traces of HIV remained in the patient’s body, despite intensive pre-transplant conditioning. Second, CXCR4-targeting HIV—virus capable of using another receptor on CD4 cells—was found in the patient’s blood before conditioning and transplantation. In turn, it was suggested that archived CXCR4-targeting HIV would proliferate and become detectable, especially with the discontinuation of immune-suppressive drugs potentially keeping existing cellular reservoirs of HIV in check.

But researchers are still losing their shit over Brown’s development. And while I’m sure his HIV status will be monitored for decades to come, the results show the indisputable need for additional stem cell research.

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  • John

    I hope this is right but I remain skeptical.

  • Daez

    The religious nut cases should just love this one…

    If this is indeed a cure for HIV they will make the case that HIV is now curable by forcing women to have abortions to provide stem cells. Killing babies to cure a disease, even HIV, is not exactly acceptable.

  • Silver

    @Daez: …”Back in 2007 a then-unidentified Brown underwent treatment for leukemia that used HIV-resistant stem cells from a bone marrow donor, whose own genes lacked the “docking station” HIV cells require to spread.” Where does “forcing women to have abortions to provide stem cells” show up here?

  • John

    @Daez: True, they’ll find any excuse to spread their anti-gay bias. However, it’s possible that the stem cells used in this treatment may have come from adults or if from infants, just their placentas.

  • bystander

    This treatment did not involve embryonic stem cells, therefore is not effected by bans in the united states. The treatment was essential a standard run of the mill bone marrow transplant, except with a donor that was chosen for having a specific HIV-resistant mutation. I have no idea why they are playing it up as a stem cell treatment, probably to misdirect people into supporting embryonic stem cell research which is completely unrelated to this treatment.

  • bystander

    This is however, good news, although fairly old news. It is certainly appears far more effective than any current drug based treatment. Although there is a considerable risk for both recipient and donor in a bone marrow transplant. And donors with this specific mutation are not easy to come by.

  • Fitz

    Don’t get excited yet. There is a lot unknown. Does this guy have something special about him that it worked on him? Is his HIV waiting and changing and about to reappear even bigger and badder? I don’t mean to be such a wet blanket, but I have been around a long time… long enough to remember when AZt was a cure all. Long enough to remember when Protease inhibitors were a cure… long enough to just get plain skeptical about “cure” at all….

    So i hope I am wrong, but for now, if you (-), work to stay that way.

  • ct

    @Daez: There are lots of women in America and around the world who would prefer to choose an abortion and those religious nut cases are trying to force them not to and trying to prevent them from having access to that medical procedure. Even if infant stem cells were used it wouldn’t require “forcing women to have abortions”, it would just entail a stop to trying to control women’s reproductive decisions with religious dogma and domestic terrorism.

  • SB

    The problem is that for this to be a cure for everyone with HIV, you’d have to find donors with this particular trait that makes them resistant to HIV infection that were an exact match for every person with HIV. It’s a great step in the right direction, but very far from being useful on a grand scale.

  • Kells

    When I delivered my 3rd child, I donated my daughter’s cord blood for this type of research….

  • olen

    Stem cells harvesting no longer requires fetuses, so the fetus issue is a moot point(thank god), but you know how long it takes for stupid delusional people to take in new information that doesn’t fit their worldview, so expect to hear chattering on and on about it for a while.

  • LTD.Edition


    A few things…

    First off, stem cells often have been used from stilborns not abortions.

    Secondly, stem cells can now be made from cells in bone marrow (JUST LIKE IN THIS ARTICLE). We no longer need stem cells form umbilical cords or placentas, full grown adults have them in their bodies and we can AND DO use them.

  • Stan

    This is great news for those living with HIV. However it should be noted we are a far way from the light at the end of the tunnel. Prevention needs to be preached in order to mitigate ones exposure of HIV. 10 minutes of fun does not justify an eternity of suffering. Knowledge is power.

  • jason

    HIV doesn’t cause AIDS in the first place. The whole HIV-causes-AIDS theory was pushed by money-hungry scientists in collusion with the pharmaceutical industry and pity-class gays.

    If you want to stay clear of immune disorders, you need to adopt healthy lifestyle. Your immune system is vulnerable to poor lifestyle choices (eg drugs, promiscuity, poor diets etc).

  • Jeffree

    @Jason: Obviously, you forgot your usual buzzwords: you know, like that HIV is caused by “sleazy” straight men due to their double standards on female bisexuality.

    Where did you come up with this theory on HIV? I wasn’t aware you read so widely in virology and immunology.

    Wow, you really are a nutter after all. None of your theories are based on evidence or scientific methods, Those voices in your head are apparently working overtime.

  • B

    No. 9 · SB wrote, “The problem is that for this to be a cure for everyone with HIV, you’d have to find donors with this particular trait that makes them resistant to HIV infection that were an exact match for every person with HIV.”

    The other problem is that the procedure has a high fatality rate (mentioned in previous news reports), but it gives researchers something to look at – whether can we get the same effect by some other mechanism that is not so risky for the patient.

  • andrew

    This is no “cure”. It was just a opportunistic side effect from his leukaemia treatment.


    It’s moronic comments like that that killed thousands of people in South Africa. The science is well documented.

  • B

    No. 17 · andrew wrote, ‘This is no “cure”. It was just a opportunistic side effect from his leukaemia treatment.’

    Researchers are trying to determine if he was cured, but
    the facts seem to be that his viral load has been undetectable
    for several years without any drugs. Calling the outcome the
    results as an “opportunistic side effect” is silly – if it works, nobody cares how they stumbled upon it.

    What they’ll try to do is to find cheaper and safer ways of getting the same result. The good news is that we now have something interesting to look at.

  • Fitz

    You know, in order for BMT to work (even if this were to work).. you have to make a patient become dangerously neutropenic.

  • ewe

    don’t count on it. I clearly remember people buying out blue green algae or somthing like that in the eighties. There is evil deviant profiteers who have no problem letting you die as long as they make a buck.

  • ewe

    AZT anyone? here, take as much of that toxin and hang onto hope honey. Its all bullshit. This is not evidence YET. I will give them that much. Just remember the terminology being used here. UNDETECTED levels does not equate with CURE. You should not being using the word “cure” with this finding Queerty.


    NEWSFLASH: This case has absolutely NOTHING TO DO with embryonic stem cells. The stem cells here, as with ALL stem cell therapies in human trials, came from the ADULT DONOR.

    The religious right is, to be fair, very much in favor and supportive of ADULT stem cell therapy, which are the only kind that actually work!

    Secondly, the man was not “cured”. He was given a transplant from a man with an extremely rare blood type that does not have the receptor cells that HIV needs in order to infect a cell. It was a million to one shot that the donor was compatible, and the man may still very well have dormant HIV infected cells, and if he does not take anti-retorviral therapy, its very possible his viral load would skyrocket. Whether or not that would compromise his immune system is unclear, it doesnt sound like it, which would mean, he could one day appear to be a perfectly healthy man with a HUGE viral load.

    Thirdly, the man had to go through a BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT, an extremely painful, extremely expensive undertaking, in order to receive the extremely rare benefit he got.

    This article is irresponsible and cruel for calling this a cure, for pretending this has anything to do with embryonic stem cells, and for insinuating that this could even lead to any kind of cure anytime in the foreseeable future.

    Both your headline and article are irresponsible and cruel and should be rewritten by a responsible adult.

  • saert

    Of course you all know that now the right wingers will do everything to stop funding for any kind of stem cell research

    they are evil and prefer people dying than getting cured from HIV/AIDS

  • SteveAtlanta

    Daez is a conservative leaning wack job who is playing devil’s advocate in all his commentary on here just to entice more response. Their troll activity is rightfully being exposed. I’m actually very keen on his activity and game now. He’s far more conservative leaning than he leads on to believe, has a very calculating agenda of watering down every gay discrimination story with a ploy to get us all to “just move on. get over it. nothing we can do.” He’ll thrown in an amendment tirade, and with a hope and wishful thinking attempt to get us all to not combat ill will, prejudice, injustice, and inequality toward gays. Couple that with constant refrences to his being gay, and you’ve got the perfect formula for a conservative out on an agenda to change minds on a gay blog that is all about activism and seeing change. His notion of change is doing as the hetros say and the hetros are always right. This is a troll. We’ve had plenty before, we’ll have plenty more trolls in the future, but the current resident is Daez.

  • B

    No. 22 · REALITY CHECK wrote, “This article is irresponsible and cruel for calling this a cure, for pretending this has anything to do with embryonic stem cells, and for insinuating that this could even lead to any kind of cure anytime in the foreseeable future.
    Both your headline and article are irresponsible and cruel and should be rewritten by a responsible adult.”

    If you check and the QUEERTY article, you can use your browser’s search function to look for the word “embryonic”. You won’t find any instances of it, except in the comments section of the QUEERTY article.

    The text of the article merely indicated that we now have
    a new promising area to investigate.

  • Joe

    This seems promising, but I would caution anyone who thinks this can be adapted to be a widespread cure for HIV. Stem cell transplants are incredibly dangerous and traumatic to the body. Essentially, you have to undergo a long period of poisonous chemotherapy (the chance of death is fairly high), then you have to introduce the new marrow / stem cells to the patient which may or may not “take”.

    It is far easier to just use condoms.

  • Ken S

    A couple of thoughts:

    Maybe it makes me cynical, but the first place my head went when I heard this headline was “aw great, now that asshole the Pope will claim that he’s ‘cured AIDS’ or somesuch nonsense.” Remember how not long ago he declared in his ‘infallible’ wisdom that while using contraception is still a ‘sin,’ it would be the *lesser* evil compared to spreading HIV? Which was taken as his giving permission to HIV+ people to use condoms? Is it so cynical of me to think that he’d pop up shrilling about ‘providence’ or some bullshit?

    Second thing- yes, this could be a remarkable achievement. But a “cure” for HIV that could be administered to anyone that is- or that becomes- HIV+? I wouldn’t get too excited about that idea, not having seen my dad undergo chemotherapy and not having heard other stories about it. And not when I heard one of the doctors involved in the case on the news today saying that the only reason they were administering the chemo & bone marrow transplants were because the HIV+ patient had cancer that mandated those treatments *for the cancer.* But the likelihood of those being adopted as routine HIV treatment? I’m skeptical. And bone marrow donors with the specific genetic traits that made their marrow HIV-resistant aren’t growing on trees; I doubt they’re about to volunteer to be sucked dry of marrow so that everyone out there with HIV can soak it up (including the young, dumb fucks who will hear about this and think “HIV is cured?? Awesome, I never have to buy another condom again!” Because you *know* they’re out there).

    So… yeah, it opens up a new avenue of research with some pretty amazing potential. But nowhere in this discussion should the point be lost that the best prescription if self-care: take your meds if you have HIV, and fer’ fuck’s sake, protect yourself from infection if you don’t have it!

  • Richard


    If this is no “cure”, but just an opportunistic side effect, there are plenty of people who’d love to have that side effect.

  • Scott

    Boy you queens want to burn the messenger.. It is at least a step you queens can’t even see that

  • Neha

    Thats a real grt stuff… to get a bone marrow donor for stem cells not a big deal for aids patients…anyone can donate it if all pre test for the procedure match wit that of recipient.. Am not able to make out how donor stem cells were able to produce antibodies where recipient cells cant. Well atleast he is healed of that, and future cure for aids is not far away. GB please stop that.

  • greenman49

    Bull Shit! I was part of the Ribozyme trials, 10 yrs ago, what I heard about this guy; is that; he was newly infected, and only had hiv, a-symptomatic, also he is in the health field! Shame on you!

  • mariakatrina

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