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HIV and AIDS

Can Baboon Bone Marrow Transplant Help AIDS Patients?

03/20/2000

Question:

In 1996 a man named Jeff Getty, had a baboon marrow transplant, to save his life. The procedure was considered a failure because the marrow died after a few weeks, even though Getty gained weight and felt better. My question is: Is the procedure still being used on AIDS patients and if it is, can you send me some information on who, when, and what they did?

Answer:

To my knowledge Baboon marrow transplants have ceased. You are correct that the one test case failed. The idea behind the Baboon was to use a source of bone marrow that might be more easily found that human donors. The problem with any bone marrow transplants is that there are a lot of medicines that are given to "control" the body`s immune response. This wipes out many of the body`s normal defenses against lots of germs. This adds to the problems that already exist with HIV infection. This makes this a very, very, risky procedure. In addition, there are many places outside the bone marrow where HIV can hide. None of these places (brain, intestines, ovaries, testicles) would be cleared of the HIV by a bone marrow transplant. Thus, it is not clear how bone marrow transplant will help. The whole idea of a bone marrow transplant is to boost the immune system. At present, this idea is still very experimental. Baboons are probably out for now.

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Response by:

Carl   Fichtenbaum, MD Carl Fichtenbaum, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati