Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science

Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science

Nathalia Holt

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0525953922

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Is the end of HIV upon us? Award-winning research scientist and HIV fellow at the Ragon Institute, Nathalia Holt, reveals the science behind the discovery of a functional cure and what it means for the millions affected by HIV and the history of the AIDS pandemic.

Two men, known in medical journals as the Berlin Patients, revealed answers to a functional cure for HIV. Their cures came twelve years apart, the first in 1996 and the second in 2008. Each received his own very different treatment in Berlin, Germany, and each result spurred a new field of investigation, fueling innovative lines of research and sparking hope for the thirty-four million people currently infected with HIV. For the first time, Nathalia Holt, who has participated in some of the most fruitful research in the field, tells the story of how we came to arrive at this astounding and controversial turning point.

Holt explores the two men’s stories on a personal level, looking at how their experiences have influenced HIV researchers worldwide—including one very special young family doctor who took the time to look closely at his patients—and how they responded to their medications.

Based on extensive interviews with the patients and their doctors as well as her own in-depth research, this book is an unprecedented look at how scientists pursue their inquiries, the human impact their research has, and what is and is not working in the relationship between Big Pharma and medical care.

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experienced illness before, it was a year of hospitals. He couldn’t get into a rhythm. It seemed that as soon as he started to get used to taking his HIV medications, he would get diagnosed with something else, be admitted to the hospital, and have to stop taking the drugs. As he lay in a hospital bed in Berlin with hepatitis A, he felt overwhelmed. Then he learned that his grandmother had died. With his grandmother, he had always felt he was special, the favorite of his cousins. As a small

Unfortunately, as the trial came to fruition, it was clear that Jessen’s concerns would not be taken into account. Several small trials had mimicked Jessen’s safety profile, each finding favorable results, although none included patients who had stopped therapy. It was impossible to know if the results would be similar to the Berlin patient’s. To know if the Berlin patient’s experience could be replicated for other HIV patients, researchers needed to perform a large-scale trial of the

1980s, he was among a small group of physicians chosen to learn a complicated procedure in Japan: bone marrow transplantation. For the military, this move was not about treating cancer. In the 1950s, as fears of nuclear warfare grew, the military considered radiation poisoning to be a considerable threat to the public. During the Manhattan Project, a group of scientists observed that the spleen seemed to offer protection against radiation poisoning. Building on these observations, in 1951

engineered cells would make their way to their tissues. Five weeks after they first came in to give blood, they would receive the new and improved T cells, infused back into their veins. All the patients would be closely monitored. Four weeks after receiving the infusion, the second cohort would stop taking antiviral drugs for twelve weeks, a treatment interruption designed to give the engineered cells a selective advantage. This clinical trial, as it was the first to use ZFNs, was primarily

bag: insights and perspectives on HIV-1-infected humanized mouse models,” Experimental Biology and Medicine 236 (2011). Carl June’s test of CCR5 ZFNs in humanized mice challenged with HIV was published in “Establishment of HIV-1 resistance in CD4+ T cells by genome editing using zinc-finger nucleases,” Nature Biotechnology 26 (2008). Results from Carl June’s CCR5 ZFN clinical trial in HIV-positive volunteers was presented at “HAART treatment interruption following adoptive transfer of

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