Doctors in Berlin are reporting that they cured a man of AIDS by giving him transplanted blood stem cells from a person naturally resistant to the virus.
The patient, a 42-year-old American resident in Germany, also has leukemia, which justified the high risk of a stem-cell transplant. Such transplants require wiping out a patient’s immune system, including bone marrow, with radiation and drugs; 10 to 30 percent of those getting them die.
Dr. Hütter said one of the 80 potential donors who matched his patient closely enough for leukemia treatment also happened to have the mutation.
That mutation, discovered in a few gay men in the 1990s and known as Delta 32, must be inherited from both parents. With it, the white blood cells produced in the marrow lack the surface receptors that allow H.I.V. to invade the immune system.
Even if it is prevented from replicating by drugs, the H.I.V. can lie dormant in lymph and nerve cells for years. But without the necessary receptors, any virus coming out of dormancy has no way to infect them.
Doctors say the case gives hope for therapies that artificially induce the Delta 32 mutation.
As other doctors quoted in the article explain, this is not a viable treatment for AIDS and the sort of genetic engineering that could alter a patient's own genes so as to provide this sort of protection is years distant. But this proves that there is a way to essentially cure someone of AIDS. Now researchers simply need to figure out what it takes to get there for everyone.