Bone Marrow Transplant Renders Second Patient Free Of HIV


A color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph shows HIV particles (orange) infecting a T cell, one of the white blood cells that play a central role in the immune system.

Doctors in London say they have apparently eradicated HIV from a patient’s body. It’s only the second time this has been accomplished, despite many attempts over more than a decade.

While some commentators are calling this a “cure” for HIV, the scientists who performed the experiment say it’s too soon to say that. Instead, they say the patient is in remission.

Both cases involved a risky procedure called a stem-cell transplant (otherwise known as a bone marrow transplant). The first recipient, Timothy Brown, gained fame as the so-called Berlin patient after transplants in 2007 and 2008 rid him of HIV. He remains free of HIV today.

That result raised hopes that HIV could be eradicated through a medical procedure and cure people of HIV infection. Yet Brown’s case remained the lone success since then. Other attempts had failed.

Now, researchers at University College London report in a paper being published Tuesday in Nature that they have apparently eliminated HIV in a second person.

That man had been diagnosed with HIV in 2003. Then, in 2012 the unidentified patient was diagnosed with a cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma. After standard treatments failed, they gave the patient a stem-cell transplant — essentially killing off his old immune system and giving him a new one.

The doctors selected a donor who had two copies of a particular mutation in the CCR5 gene that prevents HIV from infecting T-cells, a part of the immune system where the virus takes hold and does its damage. As a result, the man ended up with an immune system that was naturally resistant to HIV.

Sixteen months after the man’s transplant, doctors found no sign of HIV in his body. They decided to stop treating him with antiviral drugs after he volunteered to stop taking them. It has now been more than 18 months and the infection hasn’t reappeared, the scientists say.

Ravindra Gupta and his colleagues write, “it is premature to conclude that this patient has been cured,” but they are hopeful that will prove to be the case.

“This is a highly significant study,” Aine McKnight, a professor of viral pathology at Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement. “After a ten year gap it provides important confirmation that the ‘Berlin patient’ was not simply an anomaly.”

But McKnight cautioned that this won’t necessarily lead to a treatment for anyone with HIV. For one thing, the rare mutation in this case, a variant of a receptor called CCR5, only blocks one variety of HIV. A second, less common form of HIV could still cause infection despite a transplant like this.

This receptor was recently in the news after Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed he had edited the genes of embryos to include a protective version of CCR5. This experiment raised an ethical furor.

AIDS researchers have known about this CCR5 mutation for years and have tried to think of ways to exploit it as a treatment for HIV.

“Although it is not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure, it does represent a critical moment in the search for an HIV cure,” Anton Pozniak, president of the International AIDS Society, said in a statement. “These new findings reaffirm our belief that there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable.”

Stem-cell transplants are expensive and risky, because they involve wiping out a patient’s immune system with powerful drugs or radiation and then reconstituting it.

The benefits of this treatment outweigh the risk for cancer patients, which is where it is most commonly used. But HIV drugs have become so effective that many people carrying this infection have a normal lifespan if they take these medications for a lifetime.

The scientists note in their study that the treatment for the second patient was less harsh than the one used for the Berlin patient, raising the possibility that they could develop a less risky procedure for stem-cell transplants for HIV-positive patients.

They say this procedure could be useful now for those rare people with HIV who have also been diagnosed with cancer and are in need of a stem-cell transplant to reconstitute their immune systems. Those patients could benefit if they can find a donor with the rare mutation in CCR5 that protects them from HIV reinfection.

Avocados are like an “antidote” for cancer, fight leukemia naturally


Image: Avocados are like an “antidote” for cancer, fight leukemia naturally

Dr. Paul Spagnuolo is a researcher and assistant professor in Ontario, Canada at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy.  Today, we think of pharmacy schools as being mostly funded by large prescription drug pushing pharmaceutical companies, but Dr. Spagnuolo’s methodology is quite different. His undergraduate and master degrees were focused on the biological compounds and healing potential located inside real, clean foods, not biologically engineered chemical combinations.  More specifically, as reported by Uwaterloo.ca, Dr. Spagnuolo and his team generate detailed research in order to discover the “potential anti-cancer treatment applications of nutraceuticals i.e., food-derived bioactive compounds.”

Researcher Spagnuolo takes the phrase, “Let food be your medicine,” very seriously.

As Natural News reports, Spagnuolo caused quite a stir when  he discovered a link between a particular “lipid found naturally in avocados” and the ability of this specific lipid to target and combat potent leukemia stem cells. It is these stem calls that “drive” a blood disease called acute myeloid leukemia (AML.)  Working with this avocado lipid on a molecular level, Spagnuolo created a compound he called Avocatin B.  As reported by the University of Waterloo, his research confirmed that this powerful avocado derivative doesn’t damage any healthy cells, but instead goes after the “root of the disease – leukemia stem cells.” His extensive work to discover and isolate Avocatin B was also recognized by the American Society of Nutrition who honored Dr. Spagnuolo’s achievement by giving him their Mead Johnson award.

Chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant or avocados?

In the United States, according to Cancer.net, just under 20,000 people , at any age, will be diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML)  this year. As one might expect, Cancer.org reports that typical treatment for AML is two different phases of chemotherapy.  It may take a number of years for Spagnuolo’s new discovery to be made available as an actual treatment option for AML, but work and experimentation is continuing so that clinical trials can be instituted. When these clinical trials do get started, patients diagnosed with AML will have the opportunity to experiment with this non- toxic alternative.

Avocados also have many other important nutrition benefits.

Healthynews24.com reports that the benefits from eating avocados are vast. A medium size fruit can provide at least half the fiber you need daily.  Avocados will provide potassium, help regulate your blood sugar and provide Vitamin B. There are two specific nutrients found in avocados – lutein and zeaxanthin that may help protect your eyesight. Avocados are known to be anti-inflammatory, provide Vitamin E and K and even have an antioxidant called glutathione which has been associated with keeping one younger looking. The fats found in avocado can also be beneficial for skin and the complexion. That full feeling you get from eating avocados might assist in weight loss efforts. Add the newly discovered anti-cancer properties of this delicious green fleshy fruit, and you have a bevy of healthy reasons to add avocados as a staple on your family’s grocery list.