U of M doctors hope landmark procedure will cure boy of HIV, leukemia


A team of University of Minnesota doctors hopes a unique medical procedure will cure a 12-year-old boy who is fighting both HIV and an unusual form of leukemia.

KSTP reports the boy received an infusion of umbilical cord blood with a rare genetic mutation. It generates cells that are believed to be immune to HIV.

Only once before has a similar procedure been performed. Timothy Ray Brown received a bone marrow transplant in 2007 that allowed him to generate the same HIV-resistant cells. Brown -- widely known as "the Berlin patient" -- is now considered HIV negative.

The 30-minute procedure performed at the U of M's Amplatz Children's Hospital Tuesday was a little different in that the patient was infused with umbilical cord blood.

A pediatric bone marrow transplant specialist explained to KARE 11 that the blood "circulates his body and finds the inside of his bones on its own and the stem cells lodge in there and start making blood."

The 12-year-old's family does not want his identity revealed. The university has said the patient is not from Minnesota. He is said to be a big basketball fan, who aspires to play in the pros some day. As the Star Tribune reports, that made it all the more impressive when he received well wishes from basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving, a longtime friend of his doctor.

One of his doctors says if Tuesday's transfusion drives off his HIV and leukemia, the procedure "could really be a total game-changer.”

See two of the doctors who led the medical team below:

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