(via Upworthy) Five years ago, HIV positive Leukemia patient Timothy Ray Brown (aka the Berlin Patient --Which is an incredibly cool nickname) was given a bone marrow transplant, for his Leukemia. The donor who contributed marrow had a combination of two rare genetic mutations that made him immune to HIV. As it turns out, getting the marrow made Brown immune, too.
The transplant was to cure leukemia unrelated to his HIV infection. The German doctors gave Brown a new immune system from a bone marrow donor who is immune to HIV by virtue of a genetic mutation shared by 1 percent of Caucasians.
Brown stopped taking his HIV drugs at the time of the transplant. Five years later, he's still free of HIV drugs — and apparently free of HIV. And he's still the only person to be cured of HIV, doctors say, although everyone acknowledges that bone marrow transplantation is not something that could be used routinely for this purpose.
I'm not totally certain I fully understand the medicine in this article[2. I probably don't -- I'm a blogger, not a doctor.], but it sounds like what they're saying is that they replaced his immune system. Later in the article, they explain that the virus hangs out in "Memory cells," the place where your body stores immune records of past infections.
I wonder whether Brown has had his history of infection wiped clean? Does he need to be re-vaccinated for things? Can he get Chicken Pox again (if he ever had it)? Or did the marrow transplant just give his blood the superheroic ability to kill off all the HIV hanging out inside him?
Either way, Brown is doing an awesome job of being Science's guinea pig to try and help figure out how to cure the disease for everyone:
I asked Brown if he's going to put up with being poked and prodded for years to come.
"I think so," he says. "Until there's a cure, I'm going to keep working for it. And well, hopefully, one day I won't have to do it any more" because he'll be just one of many cured of HIV.