A woman patient of mixed race was treated for HIV with blood from the umbilical cord, becoming the third patient to report positive results with this mode of treatment. She is the first woman to report remission with the use of an innovative transplant method for stem cells.

Researchers at Denver in Colorado said that the HIV treatment involved the use of umbilical cord blood. This is readily available, unlike the rarer adult stem cells, often used for bone marrow transplantation.

Umbilical cord stem cells do not require an exact match with the recipients as is necessary for bone marrow. One of the doctors who were on the team treating the woman, Dr. Koen van Besien, said that around 50 patients could benefit each year from this mode of treatment.

Dr. Besien said that the use of grafts of umbilical cord blood with partial match dramatically increases the chance of getting appropriate donors for these HIV patients.

The case details were revealed by the researchers at a conference in Denver. Scientists refer to the patient as the New York patient as she was treated at the Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

The Woman Was Declared HIV Positive In 2013

The woman was diagnosed as HIV positive in 2013. She contracted leukemia in 2017. She received cord blood through a procedure called the haplo-cord transplant. She received the transplant from a donor with a partial match. She also received blood from a relative to strengthen her immunity during the transplant.

Patients are generally given extra stem cells after receiving an umbilical cord blood transplant. These cells grow fast but get substituted by cord blood cells, which are more adjustable when compared to adult stem cells, but the yield is not enough to become an effective treatment for adult cancer. So in haplo-blood transplant, the extra stem cell transplant aids in effectively substituting the cord blood cell scarcity.

After the August 2017 transplant, the woman with HIV is in remission. The HIV treatment was discontinued after 3 years. She has been free from any increasing virus activity even after 14 months.

Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV expert unconnected with the treatment, said that there was something magical about umbilical stem cells and cord blood that give the extra benefit in curing the woman of HIV.