Could this scientific breakthrough lead to the end of HIV?

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As anyone who wants to post a video from a smartphone to their favorite social media knows, the first step is choosing the part of the video to share. You edit out the fumbling at the beginning, or the awkward anticipation before a moment like a concert performance starts. Now, Temple University researchers have taken a similar approach to defeat the virus that causes AIDS.

According to The Independent, a team that in April eliminated HIV from human cells in a laboratory report in the journal, Nature Gene Editing, that they have deleted the DNA strands of the most common HIV strain from infected mice and rats. It’s the first time the virus has been eliminated from living tissue, a breakthrough that the report claimed could potentially lead to a cure.

Current retroviral drugs used to treat HIV don’t remove the infection, they merely suppress the levels of the virus to give a body’s autoimmune system a better opportunity to combat it. Without that treatment, the virus replicates quickly and can lead to AIDS.

Professor Kamel Khalili, the lead researcher on the Temple University team, told The Independent they showed that their “gene-editing technology can be effectively delivered to many organs of two small animal models and excise large fragments of viral DNA from the host cell genome.”

To accomplish this, Khalili and his team injected a strain of HIV-1 that had been adapted for this purpose, and he said he sees great potential if their success can be duplicated in the next round of studies on animals. Clinical trials on humans could still be years away.

“The ability of the rAAV delivery system to enter many organs containing the HIV-1 genome and edit the viral DNA is an important indication that this strategy can also overcome viral reactivation from latently infected cells and potentially serve as a curative approach for patients with HIV,” said Khalili.

 

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