For over thirty years the AIDS epidemic has been a devastating threat to populations because of its capability to easily spread and significantly decrease mortality rates of those infected. According to The San Francisco AIDS Foundation the field of cure research is on the rise. Exciting breakthroughs in science and medicine, like that of Timothy Ray Brown’s experience, suggest life threatening diseases such as AIDS and Leukemia can be eradicated.
Also known as the ‘Berlin Patient’, Timothy in 1995 tested positive for HIV and Leukemia. From 2007 to 2008 a petrified, devastated, but not discouraged Timothy Ray Brown agreed to be treated with stem cells. By using the stem cells of a donor immune to the epidemic diseases, two bone marrow transplant surgeries produced a remarkable conclusion. Timothy reached what Dr. Ray Levy, a co-discoverer of the HIV epidemic and top AIDS researcher, coins, “A functional cure”, because neither HIV nor Leukemia has yet to reoccur. As a result, stem cell usage in conjunction with immune donors is something doctors and researchers are honing in on. This success has introduced the potential for other equally fatal infectious diseases to be better treated and/or eliminated from the infected.
In Berlin, Germany a new scientific and medical innovation was applied, and success was the result. Doctors extracted stem cells from an immune donor instead of using Timothy’s own infected cells, and implemented a bone marrow transplant. The hope was that Timothy’s body would eliminate traces of the epidemic, and the new stem cells would flourish to make up his entire immune system. This was the exact outcome, and due to this breakthrough a man with two life threatening diseases walked into surgery in 2007, and has been trace free since 2008.
A different outlook on the use of stem cells and potential curing of infectious diseases are taking the stage for many medical professionals. For Dr. Jay Levy and Dr. Paul Volderbing, Timothy’s case creates hope. This one case motivates doctors specializing in other infectious diseases to further their research in hopes to re-create similar outcomes Timothy experienced.
Since its emergence in the 1970s, the HIV AIDS epidemic has been known to be non-curable and a leading cause of death in many populations. In hopes to recreate Timothy’s success, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine is funding stem cell research.
Although no one with absolute certainty can claim that Timothy Ray Brown is “cured” of HIV and Leukemia, scientists and medical professionals can state that with the help of stem cells, his body has eliminated and ceased the recurrence of these two deadly epidemics. One way to cease the spreading and recurrences of both HIV and Leukemia has been successfully conducted, what will be next?