October 05, 2015

Doctors in Spain recently announced a groundbreaking trial that will attempt to cure five patients of HIV using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood. This trial will last for a three year period, in which doctors and researchers will attempt to recreate the case involving the only individual who is known to have been completely cured from the virus. This individual is Timothy Ray Brown, otherwise known as “the Berlin patient.”

The trial is being conducted by the National Organization of Transplants (ONT) of Spain, and will involve stem cells taken from 157 different donors. The ONT has worked with national family cord banks to locate donors who all possess a genetic mutation that allows them to resist the HIV virus.

Brown is an American citizen who was living in Berlin with HIV when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006. Mr. Brown needed transplant to treat his leukemia, it was later discovered that his HIV was also cured. It was by pure coincidence that he received stem cells that were able to cure his HIV, but doctors discovered the reason why, and are now trying to duplicate the transplants using stem cells with the same genetic mutation. There are many kinds of leukemia that can be successfully treated using stem cells collected by family cord blood services like CariCord. For more information, consult the parent’s guide to cord blood or the FAQ pages on our website.

Nearly ten years ago, Brown received two stem cell transplants from the bone marrow of the donor. Not only did these transplants make him cancer-free, only traces of the HIV antibodies can be found in his body.

An advantage to stem cells taken from cord blood over those taken from bone marrow is the collection process is non-invasive and pain-free for all parties involved. Research has also shown that cord blood cells can be more flexible than adult bone marrow cells, which makes family cord banking a very appealing option for many families around the world.

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