Picture of a cell infected with HIV, with its viral antigens presented which trigger an immune response.
Cord blood stem cell transplantation cured a woman with HIV.
ISTOCK, blackdovfx

Hope for HIV Cure from Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplant Study

The third known case of HIV remission in an individual with stem cell transplant offers clues for HIV cure

Photo portrait of Zahraa Chorghay

A woman with mixed race ancestry has been HIV-free for the past 14 months after receiving cord blood stem cell transplant treatment in 2017. As per a recent media advisory from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this is the third known case of HIV remission following stem cell transplantation that was presented at the 2022 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). 

In the case presented at CROI, the woman had been on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection for four years when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. After chemotherapy for leukemia, she achieved cancer remission and her HIV levels were controlled but detectable. She then received transplantation of HIV-resistant cord blood stem cells alongside adult donor stem cells from a relative. Since transplantation, the woman has ceased ART and shows no detectable levels of HIV.  

The transplanted stem cells have a genetic mutation that prevents them from expressing the receptor that HIV uses to latch onto cells, thus rendering them resistant to HIV. Unlike previous cases that involved bone marrow transplants, which can lead to complications, cord blood stem cells appear to be more efficacious. The treatment combination of chemotherapy—to kill the cancerous immune cells—with stem cell transplantation is thought to have allowed the development of an HIV-resistant immune system.

Funded by the NIH, this study is conducted by the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trial Network (IMPAACT) and is part of ongoing efforts to better understand and treat HIV.