The government has given the go-ahead for an experiment to inject baboon bone marrow cells into an AIDS patient to see if they help rebuild his ravaged immune system.
The Food and Drug Administration confirmed Monday that it has approved the study. Now researchers are awaiting final safety clearance from a hospital, and expect to perform the experiment in October, said Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco, who will perform the operation.
HIV, the AIDS virus, destroys the body’s immune system so that patients can no longer fight infections.
Bone marrow contains stem cells that manufacture the body’s blood cells, including immune cells. The theory is that baboon stem cells - which do not get infected with HIV might help repopulate a human’s blood with immune cells.
An FDA advisory committee last month warned that the operation probably would kill the recipient and must be carefully controlled to ensure that diseases baboons carry don’t spread to humans. But the committee recommended going ahead to prove whether baboons hold a key to fighting AIDS.
A leading candidate for the experiment is Jeff Getty of San Francisco, who made headlines accusing the FDA of delaying the study. Researchers sought FDA approval of the trial in June, and the agency added safety precautions before quietly approving it on Aug. 4.