How the man cured of HIV has inspired doctors to discover revolutionary new treatment

June 8, 2012

How the man cured of HIV has inspired doctors to discover revolutionary new treatment

By Brian Clark Howard
Daily Mail

Timothy Brown, 46, became the first person in history to be cured of HIV after receiving a blood stem cell transplant from a person resistant to the virus.

In 2007 doctors made the breakthrough surgery as they treated Brown for the leukemia that he had been diagnosed with a year earlier.

And now doctors are one step closer to emulating the success of Brown’s surgery to help the estimated 34 million people worldwide who are HIV positive.

Experts hope that umbilical cord blood transplants could provide a similar solution to Brown’s in curing the virus.
Brown – often known as ‘The Berlin Patient’ because he formerly lived in that city – first tested positive for HIV in 1995.
In 2007, when he was still living in Germany, Mr Brown was undergoing extensive treatment for leukemia.
During the course of his treatment, doctors gave him a bone marrow stem cell transplant from a donor with a genetic mutation that made him immune from HIV.

The mutation, called delta 32, occurs in an estimated 1 per cent of people descended from Northern Europeans, with Swedes being the most likely candidates.

The percentage is far less than in people of other races. In 2007 Brown’s doctors tested nearly 70 donors before they found a match.

However, stem cell transplant isn’t feasible as a widespread treatment for HIV patients because it is often very difficult to find a matching bone marrow donor, and much harder to find one who also carries the HIV-resistant gene.

Conversely the match between donor and recipient in umbilical cord transplants does not need to be so close, according to Dr. Lawrence Petz, medical director of StemCyte, an umbilical cord blood bank.

Petz told ABC News that Brown’s transplant was made more complicated because the blood stem cells came from an adult donor.
‘When you do that [stem cell transplants] you have to have a very close match between donor and recipient,’ Petz told the news station. ‘With umbilical cord blood, we don’t need such a close match. It’s far easier to find donor matches.’
However, out of 17,000 samples of cord blood Petz and his colleagues have found only 102 cord with the genetic HIV-resistant mutation – so the bank needs to be built up over time.

‘At the present time, I feel there’s no other way to cure a reasonable number of patients other than using cord blood,’ Petz told Fox News.

The first cord blood transplant on an HIV infected patient from the Netherlands was performed a few weeks ago and Petz’s team have another transplant lined up for a patient in Spain later this month.

It will take months before researchers can tell if the treatment has made any difference to the patient’s HIV.

‘We don’t know the final outcome yet, but we’re very optimistic that the transplant will be of significant benefit to the patient,’ Petz told Fox.

Like in Brown’s case, the transplants aren’t carried out solely to treat AIDS, the patients have an additional condition that requires the transplant.

‘It can be done. It’s just a matter of time,’ Petz said of finding a cure.
Since his transplant Brown’s body shows no signs of HIV. ‘I feel good,’ Brown told ABC News. ‘I haven’t had any major illnesses, just occasional colds like normal people.’

Brown, who feels guilty to be the only person to have been cured of the illness, hopes his story will inspire sufferers that a cure is possible.

‘I don’t want to be the only person in the world cured of HIV. I want a cure for everyone,’ he said.


Published June 07, 2012
Doctors turn to cord blood transplants in hopes of curing patients with HIV

By Alex Crees
Timothy Brown made medical history when he became the first patient who was essentially cured of HIV, after receiving a stem cell transplant from a person who was genetically resistant to the infection.  Now, doctors are hoping to build on Brown’s success by treating HIV patients using cord blood units that have the same HIV-resistant gene.

Brown, 46, was a student living in Berlin in 1995 when he tested positive for HIV.  He responded well to therapies for the disease until 2006, when doctors also diagnosed him with acute myeloid leukemia. 

The doctor who treated Brown, Dr. Gero Hütter from Berlin’s University Hospital, proposed to tackle his leukemia by using chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system, and then rebuild the immune system with a bone marrow transplant.

However, when searching for an appropriate match, Hütter kept his eyes out for a specific donor: one who carried a genetic mutation called delta 32, which disables the CCR5 receptor on immune system cells.  The CCR5 receptor is the one HIV uses to infect its victims – meaning people who carry the mutation are essentially immune to the disease.  Approximately one percent of Europeans carry the mutation, but it is rarer people of African, Asian, or South American descent.

Out of 232 potential donors, Hütter found a match for Brown, who also carried the delta 32 mutation, on the 67th try.  The doctors performed the transplant, repopulating Brown’s bone marrow cells with the donor cells.  Months later, Brown was in remission for leukemia and had no trace of HIV in his body. 

And while Brown’s leukemia eventually recurred a year later, necessitating another transplant, his HIV never did. 

“I still have some disabilities due to the treatments – it’s not perfect,” Brown told, explaining that he suffered from speech and balance issues following the procedure.  “But it is my life, and I’m very happy not to have to worry about HIV anymore.”

However, Brown’s stem cell transplant isn’t feasible as a widespread treatment for HIV patients, according to doctors.  It can be highly difficult to find a matching bone marrow donor – let alone one who also carries the HIV-resistant gene.

“The cord blood idea came about later because of the success with my transplant,” Brown said.  “…In my case, using stem cells, they had to find a perfect match for me.  With cord blood, you don’t have to use donors that are  an exact match, so it means doctors are more likely to find a donor who will work.”

Dr. Lawrence Petz, a stem cell transplantation specialist, as well as chief medical officer for StemCyte and president of the Cord Blood Forum, explained cord blood essentially gives doctors more leeway in regards to matching patients with donors and opens the possibility of treating many more people.

“At the present time, I feel there’s no other way to cure a reasonable number of patients other than using cord blood,” Petz said. 

Two weeks ago, a patient in the Netherlands was the first to undergo this potentially revolutionary treatment.  As was the case with Brown, the transplant was primarily done to address another disease, but doctors specifically selected a unit of cord blood that contained the HIV-resistant gene in hopes of curing that as well.   Another similar surgery is scheduled for a patient in Madrid within the month.

“We don’t know the final outcome yet, but we’re very optimistic that the transplant will be of significant benefit to the patient,” Petz said.  “Usually it takes some months after the procedure to determine the outcome [while the recipient’s cells are being repopulated with the donor cells], so we’re keeping an eye on it very closely because it could be of historic interest.”

Petz explained that as of now, the treatment isn’t meant for all HIV patients.  The inventory of cord blood units that carry the HIV-resistant gene – 100 out of 17,000 tested so far – needs to be built up over time. 

Petz said he believes HIV patients with other hemolytic disorders, such as Brown and the Netherlands patient, and AIDS patients who do not respond well to current drugs on the market, should be considered for the transplants.


 June 18, 2012

Trainer’s secret is too big a weight to bear

HIV-positive personal trainer Rob Hill wants to change attitudes as well as bodies.
By Katelyn Ferral
The News & Observer
CHAPEL HILL, NC — There was a time Rob Hill could barely get out of a chair.
Today he can bench press 350 pounds, and two years ago he biked from Raleigh to Washington, 330 miles, in three and a half days.
Until now, Hill, 50, hasn’t talked about his transition from a heroin-addicted DJ to a personal trainer and athlete.
But his path out of drugs also brought him into isolation. As he remade himself, he retreated, scared of what others would think if they knew. He is one of 35,000 people living with HIV in North Carolina in 2010, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
His silence became a burden, he says. He didn’t tell his training clients; he didn’t tell friends because he didn’t make many. He didn’t tell his only child or his father.
Staying close
Misty Dawn Hill was born when Rob Hill was 17. He’s lived in another state for most of her life, but they’ve stayed close, talking on the phone at least once a week, Hill says.
As she grew up, she faced struggles of her own; Hill knew she wasn’t ready to learn about his, too.
Now, as a stay-at-home mom with a 2-year-old son and five stepchildren, she was ready to hear, Hill said.
He wasn’t so sure about his father, J.W. Hill, a 25-year Vietnam veteran now retired in Arizona.
“I’m afraid that he might disconnect with me,” Hill said.
The elder Hill, 74, has advanced lung cancer and breathes with an oxygen machine. Last summer, he was given one year to live.
Telling them his secret was the last stop before letting it go.
The spiral down
Hill first tried marijuana at 13, the same year his parents divorced.
By 23, he had dropped out of high school, married and divorced Misty’s mother, and had moved to California.
For four years he worked as a DJ, ushered country music stars like Tammy Wynette and Garth Brooks on and off stage until 2 a.m., then partied with co-workers until 7 or 8 in the morning.
“It’s like putting jet fuel in a Corvette; it’s not going to last very long,” he said. “It’s really not my personality to be that way. I believed that I felt at the time the drugs helped me to do the things I needed to do.”
After work he routinely shared a needle to inject drugs in his veins. Sometimes he didn’t know what was in the drug cocktail, but he tried it all – cocaine, heroine, speed, acid.
“I didn’t care what it was; I just wanted to get the next high,” he said.
After one night of shooting up, he said, he felt more tired than usual, and his lymph nodes were swollen.
‘It woke me up’
Carolyn Brown flew to California to see her son in the hospital. She thought Hill had leukemia. Years earlier, when he had tried to get into the Army, he was disqualified because a medical test falsely showed that he had lymphoma.
After giving him a blood test, the doctor told him he was HIV positive and that he likely had two years left to live.
“I was terrified for him; I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Brown said.
Hill only remembers one thing from that day.
“All I can remember was that it woke me up,” he said. “It was like a switch went off …”
He stopped taking drugs. He wouldn’t even take the antiretrovirals his doctors prescribed to prevent AIDS.
He moved to North Carolina to stay with his mother and sever the relationships with old friends.
For about six months, he huddled in a chair, wrapped in a beige and blue afghan Brown had crocheted, to break his addiction.
After the sweating stopped, Hill began a strict exercise regimen and radically changed his eating habits.
Now he is militant about what he puts in his mouth: no chemicals, no processed foods. He preaches that mantra to his clients at the gym.
“I saw the benefits it gave me. I knew about exercise. I knew what to do,” he said. “I thought, ‘If only I could pass that along.’ ”
Training with Hill has changed their lives, said Laurel Gropper, an optometrist in Chapel Hill who sees Hill with her husband, Carl Stice. The couple were among the first Hill told about his HIV.
His story and the changes he’s made are inspiring, she said.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, how strong a person to be able to live with this, to live with this kind of secret and endure the fear of what could be going on for him and his body [and decide] he was going to make a change.’… It takes an incredibly strong person,” she said. “I don’t know too many people that would have that much courage on all levels.”
Battling the virus
Hill is one of eight HIV-positive patients in an ongoing study at UNC, where researchers are using a drug used to treat lymphoma to lure the virus out of hiding. Researchers will examine the immune system’s response to the virus and the drug’s effect on the body.
The first phase of the study was a success, a second phase will begin in August.
His antiretroviral medication costs $3,700 a month, covered by health insurance. He takes seven pills, four times a day.
His hyperdisciplined path to health was a lonely one. Hill never got to know people well because he didn’t want to invite them to his house. If he had people over, he’d have to tell them he was HIV positive, he says.
“I really don’t have close friends. I have a trust issue I think in some regards and also the food was a big issue as well. If you’re trying to reel yourself in with food, it’s hard to be around most people because they want to feed you bad food,” he said.
He’s dated three women in North Carolina and told each one about his HIV status upfront, he says. Though each woman took it well, the relationships never lasted.
“Eliminating stress was a big issue as well; the average stress a relationship brings is too much for me,” he said.
His contestant companion has been Zeka, his 8-year-old Australian-Jack Russell terrier mix, who often accompanies Hill on bike and canoe trips down the Haw River.
He let the secret go with one person at a time week by week.
In the beginning he was tentative to talk about his past, now it seems he’s almost compelled to share his journey, start him on one aspect and he’ll start telling it all.
He wants this story to connect with people who may have fears about HIV-positive people. He wants to help others like him who’ve been living their secret alone.
He wants a new start, to live like a “regular human being,” he said.
Now he has begun to.

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2 Comments on “How the man cured of HIV has inspired doctors to discover revolutionary new treatment”

  1. umojaresearch Says:

    The article about Stem Cells is interesting, but many African Americans and others who believe they have AIDS/HIV, may not have AIDS at all.

    If you carefully read what the producers of these AIDS tests say in writing, they suggest the AIDS/HIV test is not conclusive, or proof you have AIDS/HIV. You can also find on the Internet additional information suggesting; “Since the accuracy for HIV antibody tests has never been properly established, it is not possible to claim that a positive test indicates a current, active HIV infection or even to know what it may indicate”.

    If we go beyond the fact AIDS/HIV is a man-made genetically engineered disease, proved by Virologist as early as 1988 and exposed by Dr. Robert B. Strecker in his Video The Strecker Memorandum, in addition to the research of Brother Zears Miles, we really need to look at what the disease is and how it replicates.

    For a Stem Cell to cure AIDS/HIV, it would have to inhibit the Protein Enzyme, Reverse Transcriptase. The AIDS/HIV Virus must have this protein enzyme to replicate, or reproduce itself. So if the Stem Cell therapy is not inhibiting this enzyme, people may line up for another unproven cure, the same as they line up to be tested for a disease which they my receive a “False Positive” test results. Africans and other dark skinned people naturally have fewer “T-Cells” than white people and many of the African, or black population when tested have been proven to be “False Positive” because of their naturally low T-Cell Count.

    Many of the drugs used to supposedly cure AIDS/HIV are synthetic drugs, which try to block the reverse transcriptase, but actually do the same damage AIDS does, by destroying the Immune System. As victims continue to take these drugs, their Immune Systems are further depressed and the worry only adds to an ineffective Immune System, which is unable to fight off any illness. The human body is organic and as early as 1900, it was proven that all drugs, including aspirin are harmful to your good health.

    The interesting point of cure, as far as AIDS is concerned, is that the doctors and scientists who have given cures or evidence of what has cured AIDS, Cancer and other diseases have been attacked by the American Medical Association and the U.S. Government. The Medical Industry has suppressed the Truth of Natural Cures for over a hundred years.

    Many diseases have been completely remedied by proper diet, while others means have been Herbs. It wasn’t until mid 1990’s that scientists rediscovered the power of natures remedy for the majority of viruses, bacteria, and fungus and among the strongest natural antibiotic the Olive Leaf Extract, used for thousands of years and known as the Tree Of Life by the Ancients. Interestingly enough, scientists found that the Olive Leaf Extract inhibits the Enzyme Reverse Transcriptase, kills almost all Bacteria, Virus and Fungus.

    So we are led astray constantly with lies and additional lies of drugs, testing and now Stem Cells, the really big question is, “Where Is The Proof”.

    Change your diet and change your life, eat more raw live foods and drink more fresh squeezed juices. That type of diet is the cure of most disease and has been proven since 1912 in the U.S.

    Good Luck To you All

    UMOJA Research
    Since 1986
    AIDS, Cancer, Disease, Causes and Cures, Nutrition & Agriculture


    1. Olive Leaf Extract, Dr. Morton Walker
    2. Nutrition Against Disease, Roger J. Williams
    3. Racketeering in Medicine, The Suppression of Alternatives, James P. Carter, M.D., Dr.P.H
    4. DVD, The Strecker Memorandum, Dr. Robert B. Strecker
    5. DVD, Cancer The Forbidden Cures, Massimo Mazzucco
    6. DVD, Dying To Have Known, The Evidence Behind Natural Healing, Steve Kroschel


  2. Lilli Duce Says:

    Olive leaf (Olea europaea) was first used medicinally in Ancient Egypt. It is gaining recognition as a powerful defender against sickness.


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