Researchers One Step Closer to Find Cure for HIV

HIV Life Cycle illustration

It's a promising development in the battle against HIV and AIDS, but more work is required before clinical trials can begin. This approach eliminated HIV DNA from about one-third of the mice.

So far HIV can be treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), which suppresses the virus from replicating, but is now uncurable. Antiretroviral therapy, or ART, requires lifelong use to stall the virus' spread and, as a May study found, can potentially end the transmission of HIV between sexual partners. That's never been done before.

"Our study shows that treatment to suppress HIV replication and gene editing therapy, when given sequentially, can eliminate HIV from cells and organs of infected animals", said Kamel Khalili, director of the center for neurovirology and the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine, who is one of the study's lead authors. It's not a ideal result, but it provides reason to be optimistic.

"We now have a clear path to move ahead to trials in non-human primates and possibly clinical trials in human patients within the year", Gendelman and Khalili said in a news release.

Excision BioTherapeutics holds the exclusive licence for the commercial application of this new therapy. So they figured that a CRISPR-based system could be more effective when the HIV viral load is already controlled at low levels.

If their methods continue to prove successful, clinical trials could follow as soon as next summer, he said.

To test their idea, the team built a mouse model that was engineered to resemble human HIV infection.

Snow said, "In fact, may never have AIDS because AIDS is what HIV progresses to if untreated, so I basically live a life like anybody else".

What we really need is a therapy that completely eliminates HIV from the body, which is precisely what Khalili and his colleagues have been working on for the past several years.

His team used a technique called CRISPR-Cas9 that can snip faulty DNA - which has been likened to a pair of "molecular scissors".

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have taken a major step towards curing HIV. But LASER ART treatment alone isn't enough. It explains how researchers targeted the replication-competent HIV-1 DNA. LASER ART packages HIV drugs into nanoparticles that target tissues where latent HIV resides. They were able to control the release and metabolism of the drug which allowed it to suppress virus replication for longer period of time.

Previous studies in rats and mice have shown that gene editing through CRISPR-Cas9 technology is capable of removing HIV DNA from genomes that hold the virus, successfully cutting large fragments of HIV DNA from infected cells and inhibiting viral gene expression.

"While ART has transformed HIV-1 infection into a chronic treatable disease, virus persists in tissues that include the gut, lymph nodes, brain, spleen amongst other sites".

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