Latest Stories

A first: Stem cell therapy cures HIV patient in Germany


Stem cell therapy might provide a remedy for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) after it was used on an HIV patient in Germany, the first person known to have been cured of the disease, a Department of Health (DOH) official said Tuesday.

Dr. Gerald Belimac, program manager of the DOH National AIDS/Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention and Control Program, said American Timothy R. Brown, the so-called Berlin Patient who had been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, was cured after getting stem cells in 2007 from a donor who was genetically resistant to the virus that caused AIDS.

However, he said that this procedure was very complex and was still under study.

“It takes the right person, the right recipient, the right donor, for a stem cell transplantation particularly on HIV to be successful,” Belimac said.

“If it comes from other donors, there is really a high chance that the recipient would reject it,” she added.

Brown was infected with HIV in 1995 and was later diagnosed with leukemia, or cancer of the blood.

“He underwent a transplant of stem cells for the leukemia and it turned out that those stem cells had genes that were resistant to HIV,” Belimac said.

Medical research has shown that almost 5 percent of Caucasians are genetically resistant to HIV, he said, but there are still no studies showing Filipinos having similar genes.

Belimac explained that the donor was HIV-resistant because his CD4 cells, a type of white blood cells that are attacked first by the HIV virus, did not have the “CCR-5 coreceptor” needed for the virus to infect the cells.


Flushing out immune system


“So the virus could not get into the CD4 cell due to the absence of that coreceptor … (Brown’s) entire immune system was flushed out to remove the leukemic or cancer cells and was replaced by new stem cells (from the HIV-resistant donor),” Belimac said.

“These stem cells that happened to be HIV resistant became his new immune system. So, for the past three and a half years, it is said that he has been cured of HIV,” he added.

Belimac said flushing out one’s immune system could be dangerous because of complications.

“It’s treated with various chemicals. It’s exposed to radiation to kill actually the current immune system so that it could be replaced. So, there is a danger that the patient will actually develop fulminant infection because you have to kill the immune system to replace it with a new one,” he added.

Belimac said stem cell therapy was one of the treatments medical researchers were studying to find a cure for AIDS/HIV.

3 future directions


“The future of HIV is clear. At least now, there are three future directions. Number one is the continuing pursuit of better ARV (antiretroviral) drugs. Second is in the field of vaccines. There are many promising researches in vaccine. And the third is really the stem cell,” he said.

Belimac said the probability was small that a Filipino with HIV could successfully get a stem cell transplant from an HIV-resistant Caucasian.

“If you want to get a transplant, you need a donor who shares similar characteristics (with you). Meaning, if you want a donor, you’d want a donor who is a close relative and, if not a relative, at least a Filipino,” he said.

“If not Filipino, at least Asian. (But) the (HIV-resistant) genes are actually among Caucasians. So we don’t say (that there’s) a high probability that an Asian can actually receive, or accept, or tolerate a Caucasian donor.”

Originally posted: 9:00 pm | Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome , AIDS , Department of Health , Doctors , DOH National AIDS/Sexually Transmitted Infection Preventiona and Control Program , Gerald Belimac , Health , HIV , human immuno-deficiency virus , News , stem cell therapy

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. US teacher fired over comment on black president
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. Filipinos, Dane re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  4. Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  5. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Massive infra spending set
  8. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  9. Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  10. Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  9. Massive infra spending set
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  5. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  6. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  7. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • 13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche
  • Pope sends condolences for S.Korea ferry victims
  • Drone kills 15 ‘Qaeda,’ 3 civilians in Yemen – security
  • Palace expects Gigi Reyes to tell all on pork scam
  • MH370 search at ‘critical juncture’–Malaysia
  • Sports

  • MLB pitcher donates $100,000 for Sewol ferry victims
  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition
  • PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare
  • Canadians back PH plea to take back waste
  • We treasure our Sierra Madre
  • OFW from UAE tests negative for MERS-Cov–health chief
  • Marketplace