A man dying of AIDS went past the point of no return Thursday, receiving an experimental baboon bone-marrow transplant that might save his life.
Jeff Getty received the baboon marrow during a half-hour infusion, the culmination of a two-year battle for permission to become the first person to undergo the procedure.
“He’s doing very well, feels very good, is up and talking and actually is making jokes,” Alice Trinkl, a spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital, said.
Earlier in the day, Getty, 38, underwent a final round of radiation treatment that knocked out what was left of his immune system.
“It’s about time,” Getty said. “I’m lucky to still be alive.”
Getty, an AIDS activist and former policy analyst at the University of California at Berkeley, had labored to win permission for the highly experimental surgery, which had never been tried before.
In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved the surgery despite warnings from the agency’s scientific advisers that the procedure would probably kill Getty and could spread baboon diseases to humans.
Human bone marrow contains stem cells that manufacture disease-fighting immune-system cells. The AIDS virus destroys this system.
The transplant idea arose because baboons, for reasons that scientists don’t understand, don’t get AIDS. The theory is that the baboon stem cells will produce immune-system cells that fight AIDS.