Some encouraging (though faintly so) news from Berlin, about bone marrow transplants apparently curing AIDS. The ever-necessary grains of salt? The procedure is fatal to up to 30% of the patients, and there’s no guarantee that the “wily” AIDS virus isn’t just lying in wait in a mutated form. But still, any progress in this epidemic is welcome.

As Huetter – who is a hematologist, not an HIV specialist – prepared to treat the patient’s leukemia with a bone marrow transplant, he recalled that some people carry a genetic mutation that seems to make them resistant to HIV infection. If the mutation, called Delta 32, is inherited from both parents, it prevents HIV from attaching itself to cells by blocking CCR5, a receptor that acts as a kind of gateway.

“I read it in 1996, coincidentally,” Huetter told reporters at the medical school. “I remembered it and thought it might work.”

Roughly one in 1,000 Europeans and Americans have inherited the mutation from both parents, and Huetter set out to find one such person among donors that matched the patient’s marrow type. Out of a pool of 80 suitable donors, the 61st person tested carried the proper mutation.

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