Saturday October 19, 2019

Stem Cells May Have Cured Second Man of HIV

Despite various attempts by scientists using the same approach, Brown had remained the only person cured of HIV until the new London patient

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A protester wearing a mask with the face of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is flanked by two fellow activists wearing angry face emoji masks, during a protest against Facebook policies, in London, Britain (From archives) VOA

A decade after an American was “first” cured of HIV using stem cell transplant, a British man has experienced sustained remission from the disease for over an year, after receiving a similar transplant of virus-resistant cells raising prospects of a cure, said doctors, including one of Indian-origin.

The new “London patient” — who prefers to remain anonymous — was treated with stem cell transplants from donors with a rare genetic mutation known as CCR5-delta 32, which made him resistant to HIV, just like the first cured case of Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the “Berlin patient”.

The “London patient” has been in remission for 18 months since he stopped taking antiretroviral drugs, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin Patient was not an anomaly and that it really was the treatment approached that eliminated HIV in these two people,” lead author Ravindra Gupta, Professor at University College London, was quoted as saying by CNN.

The method used may not be appropriate for all patients but offers hope for new treatment strategies, including gene therapies, Gupta added.

The London patient is under observation, as it is still too early to say that he has been cured of HIV, the report said.

Nearly one million people die annually from HIV-related causes. Treatment for HIV, known as antiretroviral therapy, involves medications that suppress the virus, which people with HIV need to take for their entire lives.

The London patient was first diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and began antiretroviral therapy in 2012. Later, he was also diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma — cancer of the immune system.

Lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva.
Lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva.

After undergoing chemotherapy, he also underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016, and subsequently remained on antiretroviral drugs for 16 months.

Later, he went without drugs to test whether he was truly in HIV-1 remission.

The London patient has now been in remission for 18 months, and doctors have confirmed that his HIV viral load remains undetectable, the report said.

Similarly, the Berlin Patient had been living with HIV and routinely using antiretroviral drugs when he was diagnosed with a different disease called acute myeloid leukemia — cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

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After two bone marrow transplants, Brown was considered cured of his HIV-1 infection.

Traces of HIV were seen in Brown’s blood a few years after he stopped antiretroviral drugs. However, because the HIV remained undetectable, he is still considered clinically cured of his infection, according to his doctors.

Despite various attempts by scientists using the same approach, Brown had remained the only person cured of HIV until the new London patient, CNN reported. (IANS)

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Subjecting Cancer Cells to Microgravity Results in Formation of Giant Cancer Cells with Stem Cell Properties

Stem cells are difficult to isolate and grow

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Cancer Cells, Microgravity, Stem Cell
In a statement issued here on Tuesday, IIT-M said these cells can conceivably be used for cancer research and drug development. Pixabay

 Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have found that subjecting cancer cells to microgravity results in the formation of giant cancer cells with stem cell properties.

In a statement issued here on Tuesday, IIT-M said these cells can conceivably be used for cancer research and drug development.

Stem cells are difficult to isolate and grow. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) generally make up just one per cent to three per cent of all cells in a tumour.

Research is being conducted all over the world to extract and culture CSCs for cancer understanding and drug development, the statement said.

Cancer Cells, Microgravity, Stem Cell
Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have found that subjecting cancer cells to microgravity results in the formation of giant cancer cells with stem cell properties. Pixabay

The research was led by Professor Rama S. Verma of the Stem Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory, Bhupat, and Jyoti Mehta School of Biosciences, Department of Biotechnology, IIT-M.

“We have shown that simulated microgravity can be used for development of stem cell structures for drug testing, instead of animal models. CSCs are important in cancer research because they not only instigate formation of tumours, but are also involved in recurrence of tumours after cancer treatment,” Verma was quoted as saying in the statement.

He said the stem cells obtained using microgravity can also be used to understand the nature of the cancer cells, their proliferation and cell death pathways, which in turn can help in identification of target zones for drug development.

In an earlier study, the IIT Madras team had found that colorectal cancer cells died under simulated microgravity but once the microgravity condition was removed, they resurrected.

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This meant that while microgravity conditions destroyed full-grown cancer cells, they must have allowed stem cells to live, or perhaps converted the cancer cells to stem cell-like forms.

“Either way, these stem cells can be used for cancer research and drug development,” said Verma. (IANS)